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Can a Marijuana Filter Protect My Lungs From All That Smoke?

It’s like a mask for your bong, brah!

If you ever roll joints, you probably incorporate a folded cardboard tip to uphold their structure and keep them from going soggy while you blaze phat. But as weed becomes increasingly legal and obtainable, prudent partakers are converting to detachable filtration mouthpieces, which pledge to defend your throat and lungs from potentially harmful weed smoke. Are they really necessary, though? Good question.

How Do Weed Smoke Filters Work?

While there are a few different kinds of filters for smoking weed, most rely on activated carbon (or charcoal) to remove contaminants. “MouthPeace and MouthPeace Mini filters work by removing tar, resin and other particles while allowing much smaller THC and CBD molecules to pass through,” says Jay Rush, co-founder of Moose Labs mouthpieces and filters. “By removing the unnecessary tar and resin particles, MouthPeace filters not only result in a smoother, better-tasting puff, they also allow for much less throat irritation and reduce coughing associated with smoking and vaping. Many MouthPeace filter users report a cleaner, more clear high, and many are able to take larger puffs because the irritation is reduced so drastically.”

Another benefit of detachable mouthpieces and filters is not having to swap germs when you puff, puff, pass — kind of like a mask for your joint. “It serves as a great way to share grass, not germs,” Rush says. “If everyone in your circle has a MouthPeace, then no one has to worry about swapping spit when they puff and pass.” If you want to get scientific, a 2019 study — admittedly, performed by Moose Labs — concluded that detachable mouthpieces “are proven to dramatically decrease the spread and amount of bacteria on a pipe” by more than 5,924 percent. That said, you can still imagine how a sloppy smoker could easily contaminate a joint or pipe, mouthpiece or not.

As an added bonus, filters prevent ash from being violently sucked through the pipe while you smoke, and mouthpieces allow joints to be smoked without worrying about them burning your lips toward the end.

Do I Need a Weed Smoke Filter, Though?

To answer that, we need to look at whether weed smoke is bad enough to require filtration in the first place. As of now, research shows that weed smoke can contribute to chronic coughs and increased phlegm production, but whether it causes cancer seems unlikely. Per the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “While a few small, uncontrolled studies have suggested that heavy, regular marijuana smoking could increase risk for respiratory cancers, well-designed population studies have failed to find an increased risk of lung cancer associated with marijuana use.”

Nonetheless, organizations such as the American Lung Association uphold that weed smoke can indeed damage your lungs, and therefore you should do whatever you can to reduce that damage. Going by that logic, a little filtration never hurt.

But another important consideration is, do these filters work as promised? If we look at activated carbon filters in cigarettes, we see that they prevent some toxins and tar from entering the lungs, and weed smoke filters should theoretically do the same. But the big problem we run into with cigarette filters is that smokers take bigger, longer puffs and smoke more when using them, which negates any potential positive effects. In fact, in a roundabout way, filters can make smokers more susceptible to lung problems, simply because they encourage more smoking. As Rush said above, many mouthpiece and filter users “are able to take larger puffs because the irritation is reduced so drastically,” and while larger puffs are great for getting high, they can of course do more damage to your lungs.

So… Should I Get a Weed Smoke Filter, or What?

If you want a smoother smoking experience, sure. If you want to stop swapping spit with your smoke buddies, a detachable mouthpiece is at least a good place to start. If you want to safeguard your lungs, a filter should help in theory. However, smoke is smoke, filtered or not, and remember that filters may seduce you into smoking more than you would otherwise, which kind of defeats the purpose if you want healthier lungs.

If you want another opinion, Meital Anderson, a 2019 Budtender Awards finalist says, “They can double as a personal protective mouthpiece. I’ve used them before, and found that they do indeed work, although I wouldn’t deem them necessary, unless the user has a medical condition that requires additional filtration while medicating. They’ve been catching on because of the ‘protect yourself while sharing’ concept, but the refills can add up and be quite costly depending on your usage — I’ve seen a filter go jet-black after smoking one bowl in some instances, which, at that point you’d be recommended to change it. Plus, a lot of medical professionals consider water to be the best filtration.”

To that last point, if a mouthpiece and filter feel kinda lame, bongs and percolators can also help reduce the damage to your lungs: Research shows that water filtration reduces the amount of plant matter and toxic contaminants in smoke as it passes through. Similarly, while scientists are still taking a closer look at the potential impact of vaping, what we know now suggests that it could be a safer option for smokers.

On a final note, uh, you done rolling that joint yet?