With the advent of newer ways to enjoy cannabis, numerous questions have been raised to scrutinize efficiency, safety, and a host of other factors. As expected, this has led to comparisons between various methods to determine which is better, safer, and so on.
Two popular methods that have always raised eyebrows are smoking and vaping. These are two very popular methods of cannabis consumption that users have always compared with each other. In this article, I’ll dive a little deeper on both of them, explaining their peculiarities and differences in terms of effects, health risks, quality, efficiency, and lots more.
What is Vaping?
Before I delve into the differences and advantages of both methods, it’s imperative you clearly understand what they mean. The general concept of smoking is well understood as it just involves the combustion of the plant material. However, vaping is much more complex than that. Understanding this is the first step to knowing the differences between both methods.
Vaping involves heating the dried cannabis plant material or oil to a certain temperature to melt the resinous material in the plant. The melting of the resinous material is aimed at activating the cannabinoids and terpenes embedded in the plant matrix. The activated plant molecules are then released into a vapor that can be inhaled.
This is where the differences between smoking and vaping are evident. Smoking involves complete combustion of the plant material which is usually done traditionally with a joint or bowl while vaping involves exposing the cannabis plant flower or oils to lower temperatures using a vaporizer.
Vaping vs Smoking
One of the common areas of comparison between smoking and vaping is safety. What are the health risks posed by both methods? Is vaping safer than smoking or vice versa? Combustion of cannabis flowers can lead to the production of harmful substances which may have significant health risks on the lungs. There is no substantial evidence to suggest that smoking cannabis can lead to lung cancer but the harmful substances produced can irritate the lungs. The results of these irritations include chronic bronchitis, cough, excess mucus production, and air pockets between the lungs.
The temperatures needed to convert the solid resinous materials of the cannabis plant to steam are lesser than those needed for combustion. Common vaporizers operate within 330- and 370-degrees Fahrenheit which is lower than the temperatures necessary to give smoke. The common harmful substances that are produced with combustion include benzene, toluene, and naphthalene.
Vaping cannabis is therefore considered to be safer and healthier than smoking cannabis. This is because fewer toxins and radicals are produced when the cannabis material is exposed to lower temperatures. Reduction in the number of harmful substances ultimately reduces the irritation of the lungs.
Quality of the high
There is a big difference between the quality of the high experienced with smoking and vaping. This is because of the influence that temperature plays on the effects of the cannabinoids. A study at John Hopkins Behavioral Pharmacology Research Unit shows that vaping packs a bigger punch in comparison with smoking. The results of the study show that volunteers who vaped showed twice the effects of those who inhaled cannabis fumes. This is based on greater subjective drug effects, cognitive, psychomotor impairment, and higher blood THC concentrations.
Vaping produces a more intense, functional, and uplifting high than smoking. Experts claim this could be due to the presence of other negative toxins that the body absorbs from the inhaled smoke of cannabis. It is however important to note that the effects also depend on the chemical properties of the cannabis strain used.
Varying the temperatures while vaping also allows the cannabis user to customize the experience. Different temperatures give rise to different types of effects.
Taste and Scents
Due to the varying temperatures available to vaping, cannabis users can experience different types of scents and flavors. Terpenes are components of the cannabis plant that give rise to scent and flavors. Terpenes in the cannabis plant have different boiling points which means at varying temperatures they melt. Upon melting, they are converted to steam and give rise to different types of flavors and scents. This helps to improve the quality of high gotten from vaping compared to smoking.
Vaporizing cannabis buds exposes cannabis users to a wider array of tastes and scents compared to smoking. In fact, studies show that higher temperatures of smoking remove some beneficial terpenes. This ultimately denies the cannabis users the luxury of enjoying the wonderful tastes and scents of some of these terpenes.
A whopping 50% of beneficial cannabinoids are lost during the combustion of cannabis. This means that a good number of beneficial cannabinoids needed for medicinal or recreational purposes are lost during smoking. This is why smoking cannabis is less efficient in comparison with vaping cannabis. This efficiency in terms of available cannabinoids makes vaping more ideal for medical cannabis users. With vaping, there is a lesser risk of losing beneficial cannabinoids that are important for wellness.
Smoking cannabis involves inhaling smoke containing cannabinoids while vaping involves inhaling vapor containing cannabinoids. During smoking, 80% of non- cannabinoids are present as opposed to 5% of non-cannabinoids present during vaping. There are more beneficial cannabinoids available in cannabis vapor compared to smoke.
Economically, the difference between vaping and smoking cannabis isn’t excessive. Depending on location and strain, a gram of cannabis flower can go for $ 6 to $ 15. This gram should be enough to smoke 3 or 4 joints. This means that when a regular cannabis user expels one gram within 1 to 3 days, he spends close to $ 35 to $ 70. A decent vaporizer typically costs north of $ 100 but it is very economical. This is because a vaporizer allows the user to reuse vaporized cannabis buds for cannabutter or even to roll into a joint.
Both smoking and cannabis have their pros and cons. The final decision on which is better depends on each user. Although smoking is quite common, vaping is gradually catching up in popularity and relevance as a lot of cannabis users today are vape enthusiasts.