In recent years, vaporizing (vaping) has become very popular. Although research on vaping and its long-term health effects is ongoing, vaping is generally believed to be a safer and healthier alternative to smoking. As many people have already made the switch from cigarettes to vaping e-liquids, vaping is now also becoming popular among cannabis users. What is vaporizing, and how is it different from smoking? What are the benefits, and is it really that safe?
WHAT IS VAPORIZING?
The big difference between vaporizing and smoking is that vaporizing doesn’t burn your weed, but merely heats it to a certain temperature. The heat ultimately activates the cannabinoids and terpenes in cannabis, releasing them into a vapor that can then be inhaled. Since you’re not inhaling smoke as you would with a joint or spliff, vaporizing sustains some practical health advantages over smoking.
Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of vaping.
THE BENEFITS OF VAPORIZING
IT IS (LIKELY) HEALTHIER THAN SMOKING
While the word is still out on whether vaping is really 100% safe, it is widely thought to be much safer than smoking. The reason for this is that almost all of the harmful substances that you get from smoking are produced by the combustion process, no matter if you’re burning weed or tobacco. As vaping doesn’t combust your weed, there is no smoke, and therefore far fewer toxins and free radicals than what you inhale from your jay.
Tobacco smoke certainly contains high levels of carcinogens (chemicals that cause cancer), which is why it has amassed such infamy over the years. But unfortunately, it’s likely that the smoke from cannabis might also contain these compounds, albeit potentially in smaller amounts. Moreover, smoke is known to contain tar and cause issues in the lungs, making this method of cannabis intake extremely unsuitable for those with conditions related to lung health. In a study performed on marijuana smoking, the American Lung Association found that weed smoke may release even more tar into the body as compared to tobacco smoking. This primarily comes down to the fact that cannabis smokers normally inhale deeper and longer than cigarette smokers.
By switching to vaping, your lungs are immediately at a much lower threat of adverse outcomes. A 2007 study published in the Harm Reduction Journal found that vaporizing cannabis can reduce respiratory problems that can otherwise be caused by smoking marijuana.
The health risks associated with smoking are enough in themselves to convince many individuals to switch to vaping. But aside from the long-term outcomes, many simply find vaping to be a smoother, less dirty, and more enjoyable experience for the body in the short-term. Just make sure you regularly clean your vape.
VAPING IS MORE EFFICIENT AND MAXIMISES POTENCY, BIOAVAILABILITY
The active compounds in cannabis are very sensitive. By administering cannabinoids, terpenes, etc. into the body via smoke, you burn off more than half of these compounds before you even take a full puff from your joint. You lose another 15–20% of the good stuff as your bud burns between draws. This makes smoking cannabis extremely inefficient.
Since the temperatures involved with vaporizing are much lower, and often much more specific, the active compounds are not only preserved, but utilised to their full potential. As a result, your cannabis vapor will be purer and more potent—and you will not be wasting as much of your bud. Hence, vaping will also help save you money over time.
YOU CAN ENJOY MORE FLAVOURS
In addition to the cannabinoids that give weed its potency, cannabis also contains aromatic compounds called terpenes that give it its flavour. These compounds are also very volatile and sensitive to heat, so excessive temperatures during combustion can swiftly destroy them. On the contrary, vaping can actually help optimise the experience of individual terpenes. What’s interesting to know is that some terpenes have different boiling points, so they are released into vapor at certain, lower temperatures.
For example, beta-caryophyllene, a terpene with a spicy and peppery aroma, is released at low temperatures of around 118°C—and it doesn’t like to go much higher than that. Then there are other terpenes, such as linalool, that can withstand higher temperatures.
When vaping, you can normally adjust the temperature of your device to some degree, allowing you to fine-tune the experience. This way, you can enjoy the full range of flavour and aroma nuances that you cannot get when smoking cannabis.
YOU CAN CUSTOMIZE YOUR HIGH
In the same way you can influence the flavour of your weed with different temperature settings, you can also adjust the intensity of your high. More of the cannabinoids in your weed are released when you vape at higher temperatures, making for a more potent and faster-hitting effect. If you want a mellow high, set your vaporizer to a low temperature of about 150°C. For a somewhat stronger effect, adjust the temperature to a medium temperature of 166–187°C. If you want maximum potency out of your weed, set your vape to the highest temperature setting. However, you should not go over 229°C since this is already near combustion temperature, where the potency and flavour of your weed will diminish.
WHY TEMPERATURES MATTER WHEN VAPORIZING CANNABIS
A scientific study from 2009 looked closer into the effects of vaporizing at different temperatures. For the study,researchers vaped cannabis at three different temperatures: 170°C, 200°C, and 230°C, measuring the cannabinoid-to-byproduct ratio (in other words the purity) of vapor at these temperatures.
It was found that even at higher temperature settings, the vapor contained significantly fewer harmful toxins than smoke. The study also found that most of the therapeutic cannabinoids, such as cannabichromene (CBC), are released into vapor just below the combustion temperature of 232°C.
On the other hand, your own personal preferences may vary. If you want the most flavour, or if you prefer a less strong high, you may choose to vape at lower temperatures instead. So if you want to start vaping, make sure that you choose a vaporizer that allows temperature adjustment. This way, you can take full advantage of all of the benefits that vaporizing can offer you.
WHAT RESEARCH SAYS ABOUT VAPORIZING CANNABIS
Fortunately, cannabis consumption isn’t much of a taboo subject anymore. Many individuals now consume cannabis for strictly medical purposes, and even recreational use is more often tolerated, if not entirely legal. This slow but sure relaxation of cannabis laws not only benefits the end consumer, but opens up research opportunities in the field, not to mention a lucrative industry. With the obvious advantages of vaping over smoking, science is honing in on the specific outcomes of vaporizing cannabis as a method of consumption for medicinal users.
In a 2015 study, 2,910 cannabis users of different ages (18–90) were asked about cannabis use and vaporizing. 61% of participants in the study reported having used a vaporizer at some point in their lives, 37% reported vaping in the past 30 days, while 20% reported vaping more than 100 days in their lifetime. 12% endorsed vaping as their preferred method. The study found that those who vaped reported it to be “healthier, better tasting, produced better effects, and more satisfying”. On the other hand, only a small percentage (14%) of cannabis vapers stopped smoking altogether.
A 2016 study sought to examine intake preferences in cancer patients using cannabis to alleviate symptoms. They found vaporizing to be the third most preferred method of consumption, after tablets and mouth sprays. Another 2015 study measured blood levels and confirmed previous studies about the effectiveness of vaporizing as a delivery route for THC.
VAPORIZING VS. SMOKING CANNABIS: THE BOTTOM LINE
Consider vaporizing cannabis if you want the healthiest, purest, most flavourful, and most potent cannabis experience!