Environmental Effects of Marijuana Use


  1. Suzaynn Schick, PhD
Research Fields: 
Secondhand Smoke
Tobacco Effects

My lab studies the chemistry and toxicity of smoke, with a focus on tobacco and cannabis smoke. As part of the UCSF Human Exposure Laboratory, we perform controlled exposure studies that test the immediate health effects of cigarette smoke exposure in human beings.  We have shown that breathing secondhand cigarette smoke causes rapid increases in cardiovascular disease risk and in nasal congestion.  Our research on the chemistry and toxicity of cigarette smoke has helped define a new health risk from smoking: thirdhand cigarette smoke. Thirdhand smoke is the tiny droplets of oils and waxes (tar) that stick to surfaces, like walls, furniture, clothing and hair. Thirdhand smoke cannot be removed by ventilation. Many of the toxins and carcinogens in smoke linger for days, months and years after the cigarettes are gone.  We have shown that nicotine reacts to form carcinogens on surfaces that have been exposed to cigarette smoke and that breathing thirdhand cigarette smoke can change gene expression in the nose.  We operate a core facility that creates tobacco smoke samples to share with other researchers. We also perform field research on air pollution in public places where people are using cannabis.  Our goals are to understand how smoke causes heart attacks and respiratory disease and to educate society on the true impact that air pollution has on human health.