Growing Acceptance of Cannabis Leads to Concern About Future COPD Cases, Says Dr Don Sin

With legalization of cannabis across much of the United States and all of Canada, Don Sin, MD, FRCP, MPH, a professor of respiratory medicine at the University of British Columbia and head of the Centre of Heart Lung Innovation, St. Paul’s Hospital, has concerns about the effect of wider cannabis usage on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in future decades.

With legalization of cannabis across much of the United States and all of Canada, Don Sin, MD, FRCP, MPH, a professor of respiratory medicine at the University of British Columbia and head of the Centre of Heart Lung Innovation, St. Paul’s Hospital, has concerns about the effect of wider cannabis usage on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in future decades.

Transcript

Looking ahead decades, since we know COPD incidence is already expected to grow, are there fears about what the growing legalization of cannabis will mean for COPD?

If you look at the composition of cannabis, the real difference between cannabis and cigarettes, tobacco cigarettes, is the active component. So you're really replacing nicotine with THC in the case of cannabis, but the rest of the chemicals inside a cannabis inhalant is very similar to tobacco cigarettes. In fact, some have suggested that we should call cannabis as marijuana cigarettes, just because the constituents are very, very similar. So in the case of tobacco smoke, we don't know which chemicals actually cause COPD or lung cancer and other adverse effects. I think we're potentially playing a very dangerous game with widespread use of cannabis as an inhalant because the chemical composition is so similar to that of tobacco cigarettes. Of course, we don't have a lot of data right now, because the prevalence of cannabis smoking has not been that high over the past 20 years. But now with legalization and, you know, wider social acceptance of cannabis, it's really skyrocketing, particularly among young individuals, young adults. So I'm fearful that in 20 years, we may be having this interview and saying, you know, cannabis is associated with COPD, with lung cancer, and all the bad things that we have associated with tobacco cigarettes.