Differential Effects of Cannabis and Tobacco on Lung Function in Mid–Adult Life Journal Articles uri icon

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  • Rationale: Evidence suggests that the effects of smoking cannabis on lung function are different from tobacco. However, long-term follow-up data are scarce and mostly based on young adults. Objectives: To assess the effects of cannabis and tobacco on lung function in mid-adult life. Methods: Cannabis and tobacco use were reported at ages 18, 21, 26, 32, 38, and 45 years in a population-based cohort study of 1,037 participants. Spirometry, plethysmography, and carbon monoxide transfer factor were measured at age 45. Associations between lung function and cannabis use were adjusted for tobacco use. Measurements and Main Results: Data were available from 881 (88%) of 997 surviving participants. Cumulative cannabis use was associated with lower FEV1/FVC ratios, owing to a tendency toward higher FVCs. Cannabis use was also associated with higher TLC, FRC, residual volume, and Va along with lower midexpiratory flows, airway conductance, and transfer factor. Quitting regular cannabis use between assessments was not associated with changes in spirometry. Conclusions: Cannabis use is associated with higher lung volumes, suggesting hyperinflation. There is evidence of increased large-airway resistance and lower midexpiratory airflow, but impairment of FEV1/FVC ratio is because of higher FVC. This pattern of effects is different to those of tobacco. We provide the first evidence that lifetime cannabis use may be associated with impairment of gas transfer.


  • Hancox, Robert J
  • Gray, Andrew R
  • Zhang, Xian
  • Poulton, Richie
  • Moffitt, Terrie E
  • Caspi, Avshalom
  • Sears, Malcolm

publication date

  • May 15, 2022