fbpx Cannabis and respiratory health | NDARC - National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre

Cannabis and respiratory health

image - Cannabis Smoke Square
Date Commenced:
Project Supporters:

Australian Government Department of Health

Drug Type:
Project Members: 
image - Ndarc 107
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
image - Jcopeland Pb Award 1
Honorary Professor
Ph 02 9385 0231
Professor Adam Jaffe
John Beveridge Professor of Paediatrics; Head, Discipline of Paediatrics and Child Health; Head, Randwick Clinical Campus
Project Main Description: 

This project builds on research by Professor Donald Tashkin (University of California) to further extend the message on respiratory cannabis-related harms. The project consists of an updated review article concerning several aspects of respiratory health including airway health and lung health.


The respiratory health effects from tobacco smoking are well described. Although cannabis smoke is known to contain similar harmful and carcinogenic substances to tobacco smoke, relatively little of the respiratory health effects from cannabis smoking are understood. There is a need to integrate research on cannabis and respiratory health effects so that gaps in the literature can be identified and the more consistent findings can be consolidated with the purpose of educating smokers and health providers.


To add to and update a recent review of respiratory health concerns by Prof Donald Tashkin: Tashkin, D. (2013) "Effects of Marijuana Smoking on the Lung", Annals of the American Thoracic Society, 10(3): 239-247. DOI: 10.1513/AnnalsATS.201212-127FR

Design and Method: 

A systematic review of articles on respiratory health and cannabis use published in 2013 was conducted with the ultimate goal of producing an updated review to Tashkin’s article.


Tashkin’s article was updated to include consideration on the impact of cannabis use frequency and quantity as well as route of administration. In addition a section on airway inflammation and infection was added with ties to cannabis contamination. 


An article for the peer-reviewed journal Respirology has been published with an editorial by Tashin. In addition, collaborations with Asthma Australia and the Lung Foundation Australia have lead to the production of two fact sheets; one with the intended audience of cannabis smokers and the other for health workers. These will also be placed on the NCPIC website when approved. 

Gates, P., Jaffe, A. and Copeland, J. (2014), Cannabis smoking and respiratory health: Consideration of the literature. Respirology, 19: 655–662. doi: 10.1111/resp.12298


In particular, this timely review provides updated information on cannabis smoking and 1) complications of the airway including bronchodilation and constriction as well as inflammation and infection; 2) general respiratory health including symptoms of emphysema; and 3) lung cancer. Although these broad topics have been the focus of previous review articles, an important and recent article regarding the presence of lung cancer among Swedish conscripts has not been previously considered. In addition, previous review articles have generally failed to identify the limitations of available research in regards to a pervasive ignorance of the quantity of cannabis smoked and the importance of the route of administration.

Project Research Area: 
Drug Type: 
Project Status: 
Year Completed: