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Effects of varying marijuana potency on deposition of tar and delta9-THC in the lung during smoking
by Matthias P, Tashkin DP, Marques-Magallanes JA,


To determine whether smoking more, compared to less, potent marijuana (MJ) cigarettes to a desired level of intoxication ("high") reduces pulmonary exposure to noxious smoke components, in 10 habitual smokers of MJ, we measured respiratory delivery and deposition of tar and delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), carboxyhemoglobin (COHb) boost, smoking topography, including cumulative puff volume (CPV) and breathholding time, change in heart rate (deltaHR) and "high" during ad lib smoking of 0, 1.77, and 3.95% MJ cigarettes on 3 separate days. At each session, subjects had access to only a single MJ cigarette. On average, smoking topography and COHb boost did not differ across the different strengths of MJ, while THC delivery, as well as HR, were significantly greater (p < 0.01) and tar deposition significantly less (p < 0.03) for 3.95% than 1.77% MJ. Although individual adaptations in smoking topography for 3.95% compared to 1.77% MJ were highly variable, three subjects with the lowest 3.95% MJ:1.77% MJ ratios for CPV also displayed the lowest 3.95% MJ:1.77% MJ ratios for tar deposition. In vitro studies using a standardized smoking technique revealed a mean 25% lower tar yield from 3.95% than 1.77% MJ (p < 0.05), but no difference between 1.77% and 0% marijuana. Under the conditions of this study, we conclude that tar delivery is reduced relative to THC content in a minority of subjects, and this reduction appears to be due to a reduced intake of smoke (decreased CPV) and/or a reduced tar yield from the stronger MJ preparation.

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