The most iconic way to consume cannabis is to smoke it. Think of any stoner movie or musician who’s enthusiastic about the whole weed thing. You’re probably imagining a joint in their hand, not a vaporizer (unless you imagined post-comeback Dave Chappelle, then you might picture a vaporizer). But iconic’ doesn’t mean ‘best’ and it most certainly doesn’t mean ‘healthiest.’
In this post, we look at the difference between smoking and vaping and examine the relative impact that each method of consumption has on your health.
The act of vaping looks very similar to smoking, but the respective processes that take cannabinoids from the cannabis to your body are entirely different. The main difference is owed to the scientific process known as combustion.
Combustion is the act or process of burning. In other words, to smoke cannabis is to set cannabis on fire. Which, granted, is something you probably already knew. But what you may not know is that when you set cannabis on fire you’re inhaling a lot more than what’s in the cannabis itself.
A study summarized by Science Daily found that “Ammonia levels were 20 times higher in the marijuana smoke than in the tobacco smoke, while hydrogen cyanide, nitric oxide and certain aromatic amines occurred at levels 3-5 times higher in the marijuana smoke.”
When you’re exceeding cigarette-level unhealthy, that’s a problem.
But the thing is, these compounds aren’t native to cannabis. Instead, they result from combustion. If you consume cannabis minus the combustion, you eliminate their presence.
When you vape cannabis, as opposed to smoke it, you avoid inhaling all the unsavory compounds that result from combustion. You might think we’re a little bias since we, you know, sell the things we’re saying are superior, so let’s get some weighty, objective input, shall we?
A collection of studies compiled by the National Institute of Health found that “The vapor formed in the gas phase of vaporization of cannabis is composed overwhelmingly of cannabinoids with no significant pyrolytic compounds.”
In other words, vapor contains compounds that are actually native to the cannabis flow and not much else. The effect, the collection summary goes on to say, is that “The majority of studies suggest that vaporizers adequately reduce risk of pulmonary symptoms.”
Put simply, vaping is better for your lungs than smoking.
And here’s another. Health Canada recently produced a study in the lead up to legalization, which determined that, compared to smoking, vaping causes the “Formation of a smaller quantity of toxic by-products....as well as a more efficient extraction of Δ9-THC (and CBD) from the cannabis material.”
The first half of this quotation reaffirms the elevated purity of vapor in contrast to smoke. But the second part is important for an entirely different reason: vaping actually lets you consume cannabis more efficiently.
The health benefits of cannabis is a contentious subject. Cannabis is now used to treat numerous medical conditions, like glaucoma, anxiety, insomnia, pain, cancer and more. Studies have been done to validate the positive medicinal effects cannabis has in each of these situations, but much of our understanding is limited.
Ultimately, we don’t want to tell you cannabis is a miracle plant that solves all your problems. It’s not. But there is good reason to believe it has legitimate medicinal value that can help treat numerous conditions.
Because vaping permits a more efficient extraction of the compounds native to cannabis, it is a superior method obtaining the medicinal benefits within. This is something the National Institute of Health’s investigation (referenced and linked to above) confirms, when it states, “Analysis of the smoke produced through the burned cannabis method, however, resulted in a much lower ratio of cannabinoids,” when compared to vapor.
You’re not likely to find a reputable study that says otherwise. But that doesn’t mean vaping is universally superior, no questions asked.
Not all vaporizers are created equal. Some use cheap materials that can leak into the vapor path and wind up in your lungs. In such cases, the move away from smoking is a lateral one, with toxins winding up in your lungs.
It’s important to do your research an be selective when choosing a vaporizer. Even beyond health, the difference between a good and bad vaporizer can lead to vastly different experiences.
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