Body Blog: Puff, Puff, Pass

4/20 is months away. So why is it that you’re seeing people smoking weed everywhere you go? Maybe it’s because a new government study just concluded that regularly smoking pot, even over a period of several years, does not impair lung function. Really.
As you would probably guess, marijuana is the country’s most-used illegal drug, especially among teenagers. Another government report released in December showed that one in 15 high school students smokes pot almost every day. So basically, this study is great news for a huge number of Americans.
The study had over 5,000 participants who were monitored over a period of two decades. Researchers were looking to determine whether or not smoking marijuana causes damage to the lungs, and, specifically, whether smoking pot is as harmful as smoking cigarettes. The scientists found that people who regularly smoked marijuana – an average of one joint per day for seven years – showed no decrease in performance on a lung function test. The test measures the amount of air a person can force out in one second after taking a deep breath. Cigarette smokers do show a loss of lung function when given this test.
Lung function did begin to decline in test subjects who were heavier marijuana users. And people who smoked a combination of marijuana and cigarettes also experienced impairment. But ultimately, the researchers concluded that moderate marijuana use does not decrease lung function, and is not a risk factor for respiratory disorders like COPD. One theory as to why marijuana smoke is less harmful than tobacco smoke has to do with pot’s active ingredient – THC. It’s possible that the natural anti-inflammatory effects of THC actually interfere with the development diseases like COPD.
The government does, of course, want to remind you that smoking pot carries risks. Marijuana does irritate the airways in the short term and it reduces attention span, heightening your risk of accidents. It can also lead to problems with learning and memory. But come on, you have to admit it’s kind of hilarious when government scientists say it’s ok to smoke weed.
Garnet is a student at Columbia University in New York City. When she’s not dancing or writing, she can be found exploring the city, and let’s be honest, spending way too much time on the internet. Follow her @garnethenderson.

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