Is Vaping Safe? Differences Between Smoking & Vaping Marijuana
Vaping, also known as vaporizing, is one of the most popular methods of consuming marijuana.
Just like e-cigarettes, vaping marijuana has become very popular over the last decade.
But is vaping really a safe method of consuming cannabis? Let’s look at what vaping is and if it’s safe in the first place.
Our guide below will help separate facts from fiction.
What Is Vaping?
In a nutshell, vaping involves the heating of cannabis to produce vapor. It’s worth noting that there’s no burning involved, so no smoke is produced. When marijuana is heated, it releases its active ingredients in form of a vapor.
A vaporizer device is then used to release the resultant fine mist. Vaporizer devices come in all forms, sizes and functionalities. This article will only focus on the portable flower and desktop vaporizers.
Is Vaping Safe?
Vaping produces no smoke.
As such, most people who vape cannabis consider this method a safe alternative to smoking. Indeed, two recent surveys show that majority of people vaping cannabis believe that the method is beneficial to their health.
Given that cannabis vaporizers are designed in a way that they release no smoke toxins, it would be safe to conclude that vaping is a safer method of inhaling cannabis.
But what does research say? Is vaping a sure way of avoiding the ingestion of harmful toxins found in cannabis smoke?
Although not much research has been conducted on cannabis vaporizing, several studies on the same have shown that vaporizing of cannabis actually produces less carcinogenic compounds than the smoking of cannabis. The studies attribute this to the fact that vaporizing of cannabis does not involve any combustion. Inhalation of any product that is combusted is not ideal for our health.
However, that doesn’t in any way mean that smoking marijuana is necessarily unsafe. Indeed, marijuana smoke is considered less toxic than cigarette smoke. It should be noted that cannabis smoke produces over 100 toxins.
The only disadvantage that comes with any kind of smoking is that smoke contains particulates and gases that cause lung irritation and can lead to respiratory problems down the road.
Indeed, all smokers are prone to bronchitis and other respiratory problems and these are primarily triggered by smoke and not the cannabinoids.
According to the first studies that compared vaporizing to smoking, people who vaped showed fewer respiratory problems than those who smoked their weed. The study was based on data from people who self-reported any respiratory symptoms.
The Benefits of Marijuana Vaporization
Predictably, most people who smoke have problematic respiratory systems because smoke highly irritates their lungs. They find vaporizing an ideal alternative to smoking.
Most vapor inhalers say that they get a clear-headed high when they use vaporizers compared to when they smoke cannabis.
However, because of the scarcity of research on vaporizing and smoking of marijuana, no one can really prove that vaping produced a different high than that of smoking weed.
In one of the early studies, 18 subjects were asked to either smoke or vape one of three different concentrations of THC (1.7, 3.4 or 6.8%). Each of the subjects then had their delta-9-THC measurements taken in their blood samples and in the carbon dioxide from exhaled air.
When the results came out, THC in blood levels were almost similar for all of the subjects, but the levels of carbon monoxide in expired air were greatly reduced for the subjects who vaporized instead of smoking.
Another recent study conducted in 2014 subjected over 100 people to smoking and vaporizing marijuana. Consumers reported that vaporizing was better than smoking given that it gave a better taste and had no smoke. They also said the same amount of cannabis affected them more when they vaped compared to when they smoked.
Given those clear benefits of vaping over smoking, most of the participants said they would prefer vaping to smoking.
Even inexperienced cannabis consumers tend to prefer vaping over smoking because vaping allows them to inhale short puffs instead of deep breaths.
Another added advantage associated with vaporizing is the fact that you can consume your weed discreetly using a vaporizer.
Are There Disadvantages to Vaping?
Most of the disadvantages associated with vaping are not specifically user-related.
They include the relatively long and delicate process of setting up a vaporizer, preparation of the marijuana for heating, the time needed for the vaporizer to heat up, and the process of cleaning the vaporizer after every use.
In addition to this cumbersome process, many vaporizers are pretty expensive for some casual cannabis consumers. It’s worth noting that although these devices can be expensive, they could help you save money on cannabis in the long run.
Vape Temperature Matters
What are the temperatures needed for vaporizing? A 2009 study is among the first ones to look at how variable temperatures affected vaporizing.
Like other studies, this particular report showed that vaping produced fewer harmful compounds compared to smoking. It also showed that temperature mattered as far as vaping is concerned.
The study subjects vaporized cannabis at three different temperatures of 338°F, 392°F, and 446°F. A high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) device was then used to measure the cannabinoid-to-byproduct ratio.
The results showed that cannabis that was heated at 392°F and 446°F had a higher ratio than that in smoke, showing that less harmful toxins were produced when smoking.
The study answered a lot of questions that people who prefer vaporizing had in their minds when heating the cannabis.
Although most vaporizers will heat cannabis at temperatures just below those of combustion (356 to 392°F), the study shows that the amount of compound that cannabis releases increases as the temperature is increased.
Indeed, according to the study, THCA is produced at 220°F while CBD, a non-psycho-active compound, is released at 451°F.
This particular study answers all questions regarding the ideal temperatures for different medicinal compounds. For recreational marijuana, it boils down to personal preferences.
Research on Marijuana Vaporization Ahead
Because Cannabis was largely illegal in most countries a decade ago, the research on marijuana with vaporizers was remarkably limited.
With marijuana legalization, scientific research on cannabis is obviously gaining traction, with more studies being conducted across the globe.
As such, more information about marijuana and vaporization is becoming more accessible to both medical and recreational marijuana users.
There are many instances where scientists are exploring the prevalence of vaporizing.
One of these is a survey of over 3,000 recreational marijuana users aged between 18 and 90 years studied blood levels to conclude that vaping is among the most ideal methods of consuming THC.
With the public perception favoring vaping as a safe method of consuming cannabis, there’s every reason for scientific researchers to continue conducting research about confirming vaping as a less harmful method of consuming marijuana.