Student Wellness Services

Student Wellness Services

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Tobacco and Cannabis

As of June 1st, 2019, Queen’s is intending to make its Canadian campuses and properties smoke-free.  Visit the Smoke-Free Queen's site to learn more about the smoke-free policy, view the smoke-free boundaries on main and west campus plus get answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs).


Smoking at Queen’s

According to the 2016 National College Health Assessment, the majority of Queen's students (77.3%) have never used cigarettes.  Of those students who have smoked, 20.6% would be considered occasional smokers and 2.1% are regular smokers.

Compared to the general population, more Queen's students make healthy choices about tobacco use. However, all students continue to be at risk from second-hand smoke. About 1000 Canadians die each year from complications caused by, or conditions exacerbated by second-hand smoke inhalation. 

In the general population, men and women aged 20 - 22 form the largest group of smokers (37% of men, and 36% of women) - this number is much smaller at Queen's. However, the fastest growing group of smokers is young women aged 15 - 19. Tobacco companies continue to specifically target this group through various marketing tactics.

Smoking Cessation Appointments

Health Promotion staff offer one-on-one consultation appointments to any Queen’s student who wants to cut down or quit smoking with or without the help of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). Through professional advice, coaching and resources students can learn what will work best for them to either cut back or stop smoking all together.

If you are interesting in setting up a Smoking Cessation appointment:

  • Fill out the online appointment request form,
  • Call the Health Promotion Office at 613-533-6000 ext.75320 (Monday-Friday 8:30AM-4:30PM), OR
  • Visit us in person at 140 Stuart Street (Monday-Friday 8:30AM-4:30PM)

Health Consequences

Cigarette smoke contains over 4000 chemicals. Each puff of smoke contains chemicals that are invisible gases and may condense and remain in the smoker's mouth or lungs. Many of the chemicals found in cigarette smoke are either carcinogenic (cancer-causing), mutagenic (causing permanent damage to DNA) or both.

Cigarette smoke starts off by paralysing and killing the cilia (small hairs which line the lower respiratory tract and remove debris from the lungs). This may lead to respiratory problems such as:

  • pneumonia
  • chronic bronchitis
  • emphysema
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Smoking can also affect the body's circulation system. Smoking introduces a number of gases into the blood, including carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide displaces oxygen and attaches to haemoglobin (the molecule that carries oxygen in the blood) with a bond more than 200 times stronger than the bond between haemoglobin and oxygen. This drastically reduces the level of oxygen in the blood. Nicotine also causes a build-up of fat and plaque on blood vessels, thereby making them inelastic. Both of these mechanisms require the heart to work harder and result in a higher risk of:

  • heart disease and / or heart attack
  • peripheral vascular disease
  • aneurysm
  • high blood cholesterol
  • stroke

In addition, smoking can cause other long term consequences, such as the heightened occurrence of:

  • cancer of the mouth, throat, pancreas, lungs, kidney and urinary bladder
  • ulcers
  • bowel problems
  • cataracts
  • erectile dysfunction
  • miscarriage

Fortunately, many of these health consequences begin to reverse themselves once smoking is ceased.

Smoking - The Social Consequences (Here and Now) the 70's and 80's, smoking was seen as the cool and "in" thing to do. This was largely due to the tobacco industry's marketing campaigns portraying smoking as the activity of choice for rugged cowboys, rebels, sophisticated young women, star athletes, movie stars, and other role models for teenagers and impressionable youth. 

Today however, smoking is seen in a different light. Those who smoke, and those around them almost immediately notice:

  • staining of fingernails, skin and teeth from cigarette tar
  • tooth decay
  • wrinkled skin
  • "smoker's cough" and lots of excess mucus
  • the smell of cigarette smoke constantly in their clothes, hair and breath


Many of the health risks associated with smoking are reversible, and health begins to improve as soon as the smoker has their last cigarette:


20 minutes

blood pressure and pulse rate return to normal

8 hours

blood nicotine and carbon monoxide levels are halved and oxygen levels begin to return to normal

24 hours

carbon monoxide is eliminated from the body
cilia begin to function again and lungs start to clean themselves out (resulting in lots of coughing and phlegm)

48 hours

nicotine is eliminates from the body
sense of taste and smell improves
risk of heart attack has begun to decrease

72 hours

bronchial tubes begin to relax - breathing becomes easier
energy levels increase

2 - 12 weeks

peripheral circulation improves
lung function increases by 30%

3 - 9 months

coughing, wheezing, etc improves
lung function increases a further 10%

1 year

risk of heart attack falls to about half that of a non-smoker

10 years

risk of lung cancer falls to about half that of a non-smoker

15 years

risk of heart attack falls to the same as that of a non-smoker

From Health Canada and Action on Smoking & Health


Cannabis Use at Queen’s

According to the 2016 National College Health Assessment, the majority of Queen's students (54.7%) have never used cannabis and 19.9% reported using any cannabis in the last 30 days. Of Queen’s students who do use cannabis, the majority used less than twice a week (1).  

Medical Cannabis Use

  • If you have a prescription for medical cannabis use and think you may require accommodations for its use on campus, please contact accessibility services for information and support. 
    • If the only form in which you can consume medical cannabis is by smoking, you must get the necessary documentation from your prescribing physician or nurse practitioner confirming that smoking is the only way for you to consume it.  For more information, including questions about documentation requirements, please contact the QSAS Intake Coordinator at
  • If you live in Residence and have a prescription for medical cannabis use, please contact to fill out a special consideration form.

Health Risks

Cannabis poses a number of health risks, especially if you use often and start using earlier in life (2).  Daily or near-daily use is associated with health complications related to memory, learning and attention due to the fact that in early adulthood the brain continues to go through a maturation process which includes refinement and reorganization (3). The more often and the longer you use it, the more likely that it will have a bigger impact on your brain.  

Short-term effects

Learning and Memory After using cannabis, you may have problems with paying attention, learning and decision-making (9).
Mood Using cannabis can cause feelings of anxiety, fear and/or panic (9).
Blood Pressure and Heart Rate Smoking cannabis damages blood vessels (6) which can lead to a decrease in blood pressure (which can cause people to faint) and/or an increase in heart rate (which can cause an increased risk of heart attack) (7).
Mental Health Using cannabis can trigger a psychotic episode (i.e., people may experience paranoia, disorganized thoughts, hallucinations or not knowing what is real) (9).

Long-term effects

Lungs and Breathing Cannabis smoke contains many of the same harmful substances as tobacco smoke which can damage your lungs (10).  Risks include: bronchitis, lung infections, chronic cough, and/or increased mucus build up in the chest.
Intelligence Cannabis use has been associated with decreased intelligence (IQ) (8).
Mental Health Using cannabis regularly over time makes you more likely to experience anxiety, depression, psychosis, and schizophrenia (11).  Higher THC strength products (i.e., "shatter", wax, dabs) can worsen mental health effects (11).
Physical Dependence or Addiction 1 in 10 people who use cannabis will become addicted in their lifetime and this rate increases to 1 in 6 for those who start using during adolescence (12).

Harm Reduction Strategies

Abstinence - the safest way to reduce risks of harm is to avoid using, especially if you have a predisposition to psychosis and/or substance use disorder.

Defer use - starting to use cannabis at a young age increases the risks of adverse health outcomes therefore defer use at least until after adolescence.  The Canadian Medical Association has strongly recommended that due to the effects cannabis has on the developing brain, it should not be used below the age of 25.

If you choose to use cannabis, here are some strategies which may help you reduce your risks of harm:

Product choice - avoid synthetics (i.e., K2 or Spice) and opt for products with higher CBD to THC ratios since high THC levels are related to both short and long-term problems related to mental health, dependency or injuries. 

Avoid the smoke - take short, shallow puffs since deep-inhalation can increase the amount of toxic by-products entering your lungs.  While vaporizers and edibles also carry risks, they are less harmful from a smoke inhalation perspective over joints and bongs.

Stay away from the wheel - refrain from driving at least 6 hours (or more if needed) after using cannabis to avoid risks of motor-vehicle accidents.

Take your time - since THC levels vary among products, test a small amount first.  This is especially important with regards to edibles since it could take 30 minutes to 2 hours to feel the effects.

Stick to one substance - avoid mixing cannabis with tobacco, alcohol and/or other drugs since that interaction tends to cause greater complications and heightened side effects.

Adapted from Centre for Innovation in Campus Mental Health (2018).  Reducing cannabis harms: A guide for Ontario campuses.

Smoking Cessation Appointments

Students who wish to cut down or quit using cannabis can make an appointment with a doctor at Student Wellness Services.

Health Promotion staff also offer one-on-one appointments to any Queen’s student who wants to cut down or quit using cannabis.  Through professional advice, coaching and resources students can learn what will work best for them.

If you are interesting in setting up a Smoking Cessation appointment:

  • Fill out the online appointment request form,
  • Call the Health Promotion Office at 613-533-6000 ext.75320 (Monday-Friday 8:30AM-4:30PM), OR
  • Visit us in person at 140 Stuart Street (Monday-Friday 8:30AM-4:30PM)

Problematic Use

Substances such as cannabis can lead to problematic use ranging from mild to severe.  Signs of problematic use may include not showing up to class or extra-curricular activities, difficulty with memory and concentration, and putting use ahead of school work and other obligations (5)

If you or a friend need help on campus, please contact Health or Counselling Services at Student Wellness to set-up an appointment.  

(1) American College Health Association. (2016). American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment II: Ontario Canada reference group, executive summary spring 2016.
(2) Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. (2014). Cannabis Policy Framework. Retreived From:
(3) Canadian Psychiatric Association. (2017). Implications of Cannabis Legalization on Youth and Young Adults. Retreived from:
(4) McInnis, O. & Porath-Waller, A. (2016). Clearing the Smoke On Cannabis: Chronic Use and Cognitive Functioning and Mental Health. The Canadian Centre on Substance Use. Retrieved from:
(5) Government of Canada. (2017). Help a friend who is using or abusing drugs. Retrieved from:
(6) Wang X, et al. (2016). One Minute of Marijuana Secondhand Smoke Exposure Substantially Impairs Vascular Endothelial Function. Journal of American Heart Association, July 27;5(8).
(7) Thomas G, Kloner RA, Rezkalla S (2014). Adverse cardiovasulcar, cerebrovascular, and peripheral vascular effects of marijuana inhalation: what cardiologists need to know. American Journal of Cardiology, Jan 1: 11(1): 187-90.
(8) Mejer MH et al. (2012). Persistent cannabis users show neuropsychological decline from childhood to midlife. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, Oct 2; 109(40): E2657-54.
(9) World Health Organization (WHO). The health and social effects of nonmedical cannabis use.
(10) Martinasek MP, McGrogan JB, Maysonet A. A systematic review of the respiratory effects of inhalational marijuana. Respir Care 2016 Nov;61(11):1543-51.
(11) Fischer B, Russell C, Sabioni P, van den Brink W, Le Foll B, Hall W, Rehm J, Room R. Lower-risk cannabis use guidelines: A comprehensive update of evidence and recommendations. Am J Public Health 2017 Aug;107(8):1277.
(12) Volkow ND, Baler RD, Compton WM, Weiss SR. Adverse health effects of marijuana use. N Engl J Med 2014 Jun 5;370(23):2219-27.