Vaping vs. Smoking: Which is Best

Weighing in on how vaping just might save your lungs…

Consuming dried cannabis buds by grinding them up and rolling them into a joint has been a tradition for centuries. Although this method is a classic way to enjoy marijuana, research shows it may not be the best option for your health.

A review published in 2013 by the Annals of the American Thoracic Society determined that “regular smoking of marijuana [causes] visible and microscopic injury to the [respiratory system] …  and is associated with an increased likelihood of chronic bronchitis.”

“…far lower risks for pulmonary complication [exist] from regular heavy use of marijuana as compared with tobacco.”

Annals of the American Thoracic Society

Of course, smoking weed is still better than smoking cigarettes. According to the same study referenced above, “…far lower risks for pulmonary complication [exist] from regular heavy use of marijuana as compared with tobacco.”

But what about vaping? In terms of the general health and safety of vaping marijuana, is there any real benefit to vaping over smoking? Most health professionals would say yes. However, much still needs to be learned with regard to the long-term effects of vaping.  Keep reading to discover the differences between vaping and smoking, and five valid reasons why vaping is better for your health.

Why Do People Vape Instead of Smoke?

Vaping marijuana works in much the same way as smoking. Cannabis is heated to a particular temperature, and the decarboxylated chemical compounds (THC, CBD, etc) are inhaled into the lungs.

However, vaping applies heat at much lower temperatures than smoking via a joint or bowl. In fact, some vaporizers apply just enough heat (roughly 220 degrees Fahrenheit) for the resin glands to “melt” and transform into steam.

The lower temperatures at which the vapor is produced contain far fewer negative effects on the body. This includes a reduced production of tar, as well as fewer hazardous byproducts that are typical of smoking (combustion).

Options for Vaping Cannabis

There are several ways cannabis can be vaped. Each option has its pros and cons, but choosing which method to utilize is really a personal choice because they can all be equally as effective in terms of the high that is produced.

Most vaporizers are built to function with a specific form of cannabis, but some devices are compatible with multiple forms (flower, wax, etc). Vaping dry herb is an increasingly popular option. This method requires a dry herb vaporizer, which is typically more expensive than a regular disposable (concentrate only) vape pen.

Dry herb vaping is naturally a good option for those looking to transition from smoking. You’re still inhaling dry flower, and no additional products (waxes/dabs/concentrates) need to be purchased. However, vaping dry herb is not as discreet as some other vaping forms., Also, the chamber on a dry herb vape has to be regularly cleaned after each use.

This is one of the reasons many prefer the convenience of vaping with disposable cartridges. Cartridges are used with cannabis vape oils (aka eJuice/eLiquid), but can also be used with waxes and other forms of THC or CBD concentrates. Vape cartridges offer more variety in terms of what kinds of product you can use. Of course, cannabis concentrates have a much higher THC content than flower (dry herb).

Vaping CBD: A Non-Psychoactive Experience

For those who want to vape cannabis for health purposes but don’t want to get high, vaping CBD is a great option. CBD from hemp is legal and accessible in all 50 states, and can be purchased in the form of dry (hemp) flower, oil/eLiquid, wax concentrates, crystal isolate, and more.

CBD vape cartridges will not get you high like THC cartridges will. However, in terms of the general effects on your lungs, vaping CBD is no different than vaping any other form of cannabis.

If you’re interested in the general benefits of vaping over smoking, here are five reasons why we recommend the former over the latter.

5 Reasons Why Vaping is Better Than Smoking

1. Vaping is discreet

Both dry herb vaporizers and cartridge vapes reduce the smell coming off the product during consumption. In other words, vapes are much more discreet than traditional joints and bowls.

That said, the scent from dry herb vaporizers is still present – no matter what people might tell you. The scent is certainly muted and doesn’t linger like combusted weed does, but there is a smell nonetheless.

Vape oil cartridges on the other hand – i.e. devices that are used with waxes, concentrates or extracts – produce very little smell. This increased discretion means you can openly consume your marijuana (in legal places of course) without having to worry about a pungent aroma coming off.

2. Vaping is better for lung health

Choosing to vape your weed at low-temperatures is almost certainly healthier for your lungs than smoking. In fact, according to former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, it most certainly is.

“I think vaping is a less harmful alternative to smoking,” Dr. Gottlieb said in an interview with CNBC. “There’s no question if a currently addicted adult smoker migrates to a vaping product, they’re gonna improve their health. There’s no question about that.”

“There’s no question if a currently addicted adult smoker migrates to a vaping product, they’re going to improve their health.”

-Former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb

That said, experts are waiting on long-term data to know just how much healthier vaping is on lung tissue as compared to smoking. While Dr. Gottlieb suggests that vaping is certainly a healthier alternative to smoking, he also warns that it should not be considered “safe” practice. This is especially true when considering the wide variation that exists in terms of vape oil ingredients.

The only 100% certain way to reverse lung damage caused by smoking is to stop smoking altogether. If you want to improve the effects of respiratory deterioration, stop smoking. If you can’t stop smoking, then switching to a quality vape option is your next best bet.

3. Vaping is less wasteful

Combusting cannabis actually burns off a portion of the useable cannabinoids. In fact, it’s been estimated that only about 10% of the cannabinoids are left when a marijuana cigarette is ignited. In other words, smoking is an inherently inefficient way to consume cannabis.

On the other hand, vaping has been said to preserve up to 95% of cannabinoids. Over the long-term this can result in less product used, and more money saved.

4. Benefits in the home

Having the freedom to consume your cannabis anywhere at any place or any time is a major convenience over smoking. Smoking cannabis inside is not uncommon, but things like curtains, furniture, and fabrics all absorb the toxins from a marijuana cigarette.

These lingering toxins emit a strong, stale odor that can be very difficult to get rid of. Vaporizing, on the other hand, does not typically linger on fabrics, linen, or any other sort of material (if the vape device is used at a low enough temperature).

5. Vaping protects your skin

Even when a high-quality filter is used, the combustion of cannabis produces sticky tar that wreaks havoc on the body’s respiratory system. But did you know that exposure to these same by-products also damages skin cells and promotes the aging process?

Tar from combustion is loaded with free radicals, which negatively impact the skin and increase the amount of wrinkles, marks and other lines that may be visible. Since vaping does not produce smoke, your skin (both externally and in the inner mucosal linings of the respiratory system) is exposed to fewer damaging effects.

A Summary on the General Health Benefits of Vaping Over Smoking

To recap, here is a brief table highlighting several of the key benefits of vaping weed over smoking. Remember, however, that little is known in regard to the long-term health effects of vaping cannabis.

  • Vaping is more efficient. Up to 30% of the THC in marijuana is destroyed during the combustion process when using a joint. Vaporization preserves most of the THC, making for a more potent experience.
  • Vaping is better for your health. While little is known about the long-term effects of vaping, former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb claims there is “no question” that vaping is a healthier alternative to smoking. All forms of smoking produce harmful tars and toxic carcinogens, but vaping exposes the user to far less of these dangerous byproducts.
  • Vaping is more potent. While THC levels of dry herb (flower) max out at roughly 30%, vape products like oils, dabs, and wax concentrates routinely boast THC content over 80%.
  • Vaping is more convenient and discreet. While vaping cannabis is not 100% aroma-free, it is far less smelly (and lingers a lot less) than the aroma produced by smoking.

Various Types of Vaporizers

Unlike joints and bowls which are pretty universal in terms of their form and function, cannabis vaping devices come in a massive range of styles, sizes, and prices. There are even ‘smart vapes’ that can be controlled through an app, as well as adjustable temperature devices that are allowing users to fully customize their high.

Here is a brief look at the most common types of vapes currently on the market:

Disposable vape pens

These are the smallest and most inexpensive ($20 or less) type of vaporizer. They are highly portable, discreet, and simple to use. Most use basic conduction heating methods. Disposable vape pens are a good choice for people new to vaping, but are typically only compatible with wax concentrates.

Conduction vapes

In conduction vapes, the cannabis comes into physical contact with a heated surface (typically an e-coil) to produce vapor. This method is quick, but it can sometimes heat up the marijuana unevenly, leading to harsh hits and wasted material.

Convection vapes

Convection vaporizers pass heated air over the herb without it coming into contact with any heated surface. This method is more efficient because it heats the marijuana more evenly – resulting in a better and stronger vape cloud. This is the preferred method for experienced vapers.

Final Thoughts on Why Vaping is Better than Smoking

Although smoking is a traditional way of consuming cannabis (and one that is likely not going anywhere anytime soon), there are several reasons why vaping is a better option. Most obviously, vaping offers an inherent respiratory health benefit over smoking.

Of course, little is known as of yet with regard to the long-term effects of vaping on lung tissue. Few people realized prior to the 1960’s that cigarette smoke was harmful, and we may be in a similarly oblivious situation now when it comes to the perceived health benefits of vaping vs smoking.

If long-term lung health is a serious goal of yours, your best bet is to quit smoking (or vaping) altogether. If that is an unrealistic option, vaping no doubt offers a healthier, cleaner alternative to marijuana or tobacco cigarettes.


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