Country music legend and cannabis activist Willie Nelson has quit smoking, revealing that it “almost killed him” after consuming it for 65 years.
The humble 86-year-old admitted that
he has “abused his lungs quite a bit” over the years, which has made breathing
increasingly difficult. As a result, he has decided to put down the joint and
pick up a vape pen instead, despite initial rumours claiming he had quit weed
“I started smoking cedar bark, went
from that to cigarettes to whatever,” he said. “And that almost killed me. I
don’t smoke anymore. I take better care of myself.” He told
While fans were initially shocked at
the prospect of Willie Nelson, a self-proclaimed pot head, quitting weed, his
spokesperson came out to say the reports were false and that he is now just
consuming cannabis via edibles and vapes.
“That said, Willie does what he wants,
when he wants, when it comes to smoking” she revealed.
Willie’s relationship with cannabis has been well documented, as he has been a campaigner for the legalisation of cannabis and an avid user for around 65 years, as well as owning his own weed company, Willie’s Reserve, which sells cannabis products.
He is a co-chairman of the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) advisory board, and has worked for the organisation for years in promoting the legalisation of cannabis in America. He also attempted to get involved in the politics of weed further by creating a ‘teapot party’ and coining the motto “tax it, regulate it and legalise it”.
Willie Nelson earned his name as the
poster boy for cannabis way before modern day cannabis legends such as Snoop
Dogg did, living by the
statement ‘my stash is your stash’ while his band toured across the country
sharing joints throughout the shows between him, the band and the crowd.
Snoop Dogg even admitted
he had to “hit the timeout button”, something he had never had to do before, as
Nelson was the only person who had ever managed to out-smoke him. They both went on to work together on a
number of cannabis related songs afterwards including hits such as Roll Me Up
and My Medicine.
Nelson has a multitude of songs
detailing his love for the plant and has been arrested a number of times for
cannabis possession, starting
in 1974 and dating up to as recent as 2010.
The recent revelation of lung problems
Nelson has been dealing with is the latest in a long string of lung-related
issues he has suffered, with a lung collapsing for the first
time in 1981. He stopped smoking
cigarettes during treatment but ultimately continued smoking them once the
initial congestion had cleared.
After experiencing multiple instances
of breathing problems, pneumonia and emphysema throughout the years, he
eventually went through stem-cell
therapy in 2015 to attempt to improve his
lung function, which he put down to his heavy use of cigarettes.
Nelson was forced to cancel a tour
earlier this year due to breathing issues, which raises the question of whether
it was actually his rampant cannabis use that caused the issue.
Cannabis and the lungs
There have been
numerous studies on cannabis and its relationship with respiratory issues from
a medical standpoint. The NHS states
that the lung health risks are “underestimated”, although reports claiming that
it is “20 times” more likely to cause lung cancer than tobacco could be
misleading or basing evidence on cannabis smoked alongside tobacco.
“One third of people think cannabis is
harmless despite the fact that smoking it is 20 times more likely to cause
cancer than tobacco,” The Daily Telegraph reported, while the Independent
stated that young cannabis users “do not realise the huge danger to their
While there certainly is some truth
behind such statements due to the way that cannabis is smoked, as typically it
is taken with a deeper inhale and held in the lung for longer, it can lead to a
much higher deposition of tar when compared to cigarette smoking.
However, while both tobacco and
cannabis affect the lung function of those who use them, cannabis was not
associated with airflow obstruction or impairment of gas transfer, as reported
by scientific journals, whereas tobacco was associated with both of these
issues as well as lower transfer factors.
Well-designed studies into cannabis use have found that although the smoke contains a number of carcinogens and cocarcinogens, which should always be avoided if possible, findings have suggested there is no increased risk for the development of either lung or upper airway cancer from light or moderate use.
This could be due to the possible
anti-tumour effects of both THC and CBD which have been found in various
to modulate tumour growth. However, the tests have mostly been carried out on
animals and cell cultures so further research needs to be done to verify these
It should be noted though that
regularly smoking cannabis can cause visible and microscopic injury to the
large airways which is associated with an increased likelihood of symptoms of
chronic bronchitis, which will subside after ceasing the use of it.
For people who may be heavy, long-term
users, such as Willie Nelson, the evidence is still mixed concerning
Evidence in the report demonstrates far lower risks for pulmonary
complications of even regular heavy use of cannabis when compared to the grave
pulmonary consequences of smoking tobacco.
The complexity of comparing the two is
evident in the fact that many users ingest both tobacco and cannabis together
and at the same time, demonstrating the need for further research surrounding
the topic before concrete answers can be formed apart from the obvious; smoke
in general is not good for the lungs.
Any time smoke or contaminants enter the lungs there will undoubtedly be some type of negative effects associated with it, so if someone is adamant on using something where smoke is created, it is always advised from a medical standpoint to opt for the ingested version or alternative means of administration as opposed to smoking.