The debate whether vaping is safe and more beneficial than smokable forms is very hot today. Cannabis aficionados have different viewpoints depending on whom you ask. Traditional smokers will never ditch their joint in favor of inhaling vapor, whereas people describing themselves as “health-conscious” are leaning towards vaping their herb.
Vaping cannabis has recently gained momentum for several reasons — one of them being safety.
But is vaping cannabis actually safer than smoking?
You’ll find the answer in this article. But before we discuss the difference between vaping vs smoking cannabis, let’s focus on definitions and statistics for a moment.
What Is Vaping?
Vaping means heating the cannabis material without causing combustion. Since your herb doesn’t get burned, the gentle heat allows the user to deliver more cannabinoids — like THC and CBD — and terpenes for better therapeutic effects and a more clear-headed high.
These active substances are suspended in the form of vapor and inhaled through a vaporizer, which is a special device for heating dry herbs and concentrates. You can also vape your cannabis in a vape pen or a vape tank of your E-cig with special weed-infused liquids.
Vaping vs Smoking: A Quick Comparison of Pros & Cons
In this section, we’ll cover general pros and cons of vaping and smoking cannabis, aside from the health aspect.
Pros & Cons of Vaping
- Draws out more aromas and flavor from your weed
- Delivers more cannabinoids and terpenes to your system
- Offers different temperature customization options
- Goes smoother on the throat and lungs
- The high from vaping isn’t as heavy as from smoking
- More difficult learning curve
- High-quality vaporizers and vape pens can be expensive
- Vaping devices require consistent maintenance
Pros & Cons of Smoking
- It’s a ritual
- Easy learning curve
- More affordable than vaping
- You can choose between several devices to smoke from
- Smoking doesn’t depend on batteries
- Carries less flavor and aroma than vaped weed
- Fewer cannabinoids and terpenes enter your system (less efficient)
- The high from smoking can be too heavy for some people
- Can be harsh on the throat and lungs
- The heat from smoking can damage the throat (especially when using pipes)
- Far less discreet than vaping
Vaping vs Smoking: What the Numbers Say
Vaping is a trending topic and the numbers are a great proof of its rising popularity, especially among younger consumers. Studies have found that the number of smokers has dramatically decreased in the last five years. WebMD links the rapid decline in adult smoking over the last 20 years to the global acceptance of vaporizers and their alleged safety.
Is Vaping Actually Safer Than Smoking?
In a 2016 study published in the Journal of Drug & Alcohol Dependence, the researchers have found that the main reason why people give up smoking cannabis in favor of vaporization is the higher safety profile of the latter. Vaporization doesn’t produce harmful toxic compounds such as ammonia, tar, and carcinogens.
Novice consumers prefer vaping over smoking because they don’t need to inhale as deeply as they would with smoked weed. Instead, they can draw short, steady buffs and have better control of their dosage.
Aside from disregarding the safety argument, some long-time smokers also argue that the effects of smoked and vaped cannabis are the same. However, research in this matter says something completely opposite. Most vaporizers have heating elements that don’t release toxins.
Vaping weed seems to be safer because the vapor isn’t as harsh on the throat and lungs as the smoke, which often causes problems for some medical marijuana patients, e.g. those with lung conditions.
Vaporization also brings faster symptom relief, and in a cleaner and relatively safe way. We’re saying relatively safe because there’s no research on the long-term effects of vaping — this trend is too young to draw any far-reaching conclusions at this moment.
Does Smoking Cannabis Really Damage Your Lungs?
Although smoking anything is generally considered bad for lungs and may cause respiratory issues, there’s no definitive proof to confirm that in the case of cannabis. Research in this subject has found that even regular cannabis smoking doesn’t lead to impairments in lung function. On the contrary, regular cannabis smokers scored better at respiratory function tests than tobacco smokers and — wait for it! — non-smokers.
Nevertheless, smoking cannabis can irritate the mouth, throat, and lung tissues. New consumers may feel very uncomfortable when smoking for the first time. The irritation is caused by burning the plant material, which releases tar and other by-products that you inhale directly to your lungs.
What Are the Benefits of Vaping Weed?
A 2014 study showed that discreteness is the major benefit of vaping cannabis. Vaporization doesn’t produce the tell-tale smoke of marijuana so that users can remain low-profile.
Lower heat also preserves more terpenes, which are volatile aromatic compounds that contribute to the fragrance and flavors of cannabis strains — they also enhance some effects of THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids.
As mentioned, the high from vaping is cleaner than the one from smoking cannabis. That’s because vaporizers don’t release as many toxins into the body as smoking.
Last but not least, vaping cannabis is more efficient. When you smoke cannabis, you immediately destroy 50% of the cannabinoids, whereas vaporization was shown to deliver up to 80% of the consumed cannabinoid content.
Setting the Right Temperature for Your Vaporizer
Temperature is of paramount importance for vaping cannabis. If you use too high temperatures, you’re facing the risk of combusting the plant material, which is against the whole idea behind vaporizers.
On the other hand, if the heat is too low, you may not be able to fully activate the cannabinoids and terpenes.
According to one study from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijiuana Laws, the optimal temperature range for vaping cannabis flowers is between 330 and 365 F.
What Are the Potential Dangers of Vaping Cannabis?
Some cheap vaporizers can release harmful toxins to your system, but this is the case for inferior units that have plastic elements. As long as you buy high-quality vaporizers that operate on quartz or titanium heating coils, you shouldn’t worry about inhaling those toxins.
On a practical note, some people find it difficult to get a good grasp of their vapes. Choosing the best temperature setting, cleaning your device after each session, waiting for it to heat up — these are the potential roadblocks on your way to leaving the old smoking habit behind.
Summarizing the Difference Between Vaping vs Smoking Cannabis
Current evidence suggests that vaping is safer than smoking cannabis. For one, vaporization greatly reduces the risk of inhaling toxic compounds with your vapor. It also provides a faster onset for marijuana’s effects, which is a great advantage for impatient consumers. If you have a high-quality vaporizer or vape pen, and you know how to operate on different vaping temperatures, you’re going to have a great time using cannabis this way.
What about you? Do you believe that vaping is safer than smoking?