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Cannabis smoke health warning

BLF: "Vital people are fully aware of the dangers"

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LONDON, England -- Health risks from smoking cannabis have risen dramatically since the 1960s because of changes to the way the drug is produced, a health charity says.

The British Lung Foundation warned smoking three cannabis joints a day can cause the same lung damage as 20 cigarettes.

Its report, A Smoking Gun, says smoking pure cannabis is as harmful as tobacco and when the two are mixed the effects are dramatically worsened.

The BLF report, published on Monday, said the health risks were worse now than in the 1960s because there is more THC (tetrahydrocanabinol), the ingredient which accounts for the psychoactive properties of cannabis, in the substance consumed today.

BLF Chairman Dr. Mark Britton told the UK's Press Association: "These statistics will come as a surprise to many people, especially those who choose to smoke cannabis rather than tobacco in the belief it is safer for them.

"It is vital that people are fully aware of the dangers so they can make an educated decision and know the damage they may be causing."

The study looked at existing scientific and medical research on cannabis smoking and respiratory health.

Evidence shows that tar from cannabis cigarettes contains 50 percent more cancer producing agents, or carcinogens, than tobacco, it says.

Dame Helena Shovelton, BLF chief executive, told the BBC's Today programme: "Puff and inhalation volume with cannabis is up to four times higher than with tobacco. In other words you inhale deeper and hold your breath with the smoke for longer before exhaling.

"This results in more poisonous carbon monoxide and tar entering into the lungs."

She added that the charity wanted to ensure people were aware of the dangers -- but was not advising on whether or not to smoke cannabis.

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