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Vaping vs Smoking Weed: Which is Best?

Most of us know that smoking is not generally good for us. While tobacco is full of all sorts of nasty toxins, cannabis is often thought of as a much safer option. That doesn’t mean smoke particles produced from lighting up your favorite weed, however, is entirely good for you.  

With the recent rise in the number of people vaping, the question of which is best for cannabis users has become a popular debate.  

When it comes to vaping vs smoking weed, you’ll find people stuck on one side or other of the argument. It usually comes down to those who like traditional smoking and those who prefer to be as safe as possible when they use cannabis, either for recreational or medicinal purposes.  

We take a closer look at both so you can make up your own mind.  

Vaping vs Smoking Weed: What’s the Difference? 

You may think that the two are the same. After all, you inhale the cannabis whether you are vaping or smoking. The difference is in the method of delivery. When you burn something, it creates smoke and this is full of a whole host of minute particles, toxins and chemicals.  

Vaping heats an oil or other substance up to the point where it just vaporizes. That should mean you get fewer particles and it should, at least theoretically, be healthier.  

There’s plenty of research that shows smoking cannabis, as with tobacco, contributes to lung problems, cancer and respiratory diseases. It can also irritate the throat and airways as you inhale all that burning tar and ash. You don’t get this with vaping, at least not to the same extent.  

When you burn with smoking, it’s a one size fits all temperature. With vaping, you can change the heat levels and that has at least some benefits when you are looking to release certain terpenes or other cannabis elements, particularly for health reasons.  

Vaping means that you don’t subject yourself to the potentially carcinogenic elements that you get with smoking. When it comes to vaping vs smoking weed, this is one of the big factors that people tend to consider.  

Of course, there are ways to cut down on the carcinogens when you are smoking weed as well. You can filter out the harmful substances using a bong, for example. But by far the safest of the two methods is vaping cannabis.  

A Guide to Vaping Weed 

Vaping is the process of heating up cannabis and releasing all its chemicals without actually burning the compound. It’s a method that has been around for quite a while now but has increased in popularity mainly because of e-cigarettes. This has led to a lot of innovation in the market which means there are a whole range of different vaping devices from portable pens to desktop varieties.  

The Safety of Vaping 

The question of how safe it is to vape has been in the news in recent times. Most medical professionals believing that vaping vs smoking weed is much safer as it is with tobacco. That does not mean, however, vaping is entirely risk-free.  

It does remain a popular method of delivery for many cannabis users, especially those who have never smoked before. A recent survey that looked at over 2,000 cannabis users in the USA found that over 60% of them were likely to vape and nearly 40% had done so in the last month. The truth is that many people see vaping as a much healthier option and the improvement in devices and hardware over the last decade has helped drive this.  

The big question is whether taking a vape is less harmful and exposes people to fewer carcinogenic or damaging substances. The truth is that more research needs to be done in this area. The work that has been carried out is less centered on cannabis users as it is vapers in general, including those who are trying to give up smoking.  

There is no doubt that when cannabis is burned, however, that it releases a lot more toxins. Just as importantly, some research has shown that vaping is a more efficient way to release THC and CBD and that’s mainly because you can control the temperature better.  

Another study found that those that were regularly vaping vs smoking weed were less likely to have respiratory problems in general. This positive effect increased among those who were regular cannabis users.  

Vaping is often the preferred method for medicinal cannabis users for obvious reasons. Many have problems with their respiratory systems anyway and smoking can cause high levels of irritation. Other users have stated that vaping delivers a much cleaner high and allows them to maintain their senses more than when smoking. This has been backed up by evidence that carbon monoxide levels are lower in those who vape vs those that smoke.  

One study that looked at people who both vaped and smoked found that there were other advantages to vaping. Users talked of a better taste to their product and, of course, there was no smell clinging to their clothes afterwards. Many also said that they were likely to get a bigger hit from vaping compared to a similar amount of cannabis being smoked.  They identified only two minor problems with vaping and that was setting up the device and cleaning it afterwards.  

The Downside of Vaping Cannabis 

One of the most noted disadvantages of vaping, according to some users, is actually buying the device in the first place. A good quality vaporizer can set someone back at least a few hundred dollars. Portable vapes have come on in leaps and bounds in recent years though there is always the problem of making sure the device is charged sufficiently, especially if you are out on the road.  

Overall, however, the benefits far outweigh the small disadvantages.  

Vaping and Temperature 

The key advantage of vaping vs smoking weed is the ability to control the temperature to a much higher degree. Research has found that this can help make sure that toxins are kept to a minimum but also allows the user to release more of the essential cannabinoids that are deemed to be important. Terpenes are a point in question – each has its own boiling point at which they begin to vaporize and users can now carefully select the right temperature to achieve this. 

Most standard vaporizers heat cannabis to just below the point when it begins to boil, somewhere between 356°F and 392°F. The evidence shows that the amount of compound released tends to increase as you approach the boiling point. THC, for instance, is released at around 220°F up to about 428°F. A substance like cannabichromene or CBC, which is thought to act as an antidepressant, is released at much higher temperatures of 451°F.  

Of course, you need to know exactly what you are doing and what effect you are trying to achieve, particularly if you want to use cannabis for medicinal purposes. Having an exact temperature that you can dial into your vaping device means you should be able to maximize the impact and get the most out of your cannabis.  

The effect of temperature used to be a moot point when it came to cannabis. As more states in the US have legalized it for both recreational and medicinal use, however, we’re beginning to see better research coming out across the board. That means we should have a clearer understanding of what factors can be used to improve our experience while vaping. It’s something you can’t really control if you are burning and smoking your weed.  

Vaping vs Smoking Weed: Conclusions 

When it comes to recreational use of cannabis, whether you use vaping or smoke is largely a matter of personal preference. Many people who have taken up vaping also still smoke depending on their circumstances. There’s often something time-honored and traditional about lighting up a pipe or burning a nail, at least for many cannabis users.  

Vaping for medicinal purposes has generally increased whereas smoking has decreased. Many people don’t want the harmful and toxic effects of smoking and the fact that you can control temperature better means this is the preferred method of taking weed.  

That doesn’t mean there are no risks when it comes to vaping. You are still inhaling substances into your lungs and further research could show that this also has harmful effects over time. For the moment at least, though, vaping is seen as the safer option.  

Cultivation information, and media is given for those of our clients who live in countries where cannabis cultivation is decriminalised or legal, or to those that operate within a licensed model. We encourage all readers to be aware of their local laws and to ensure they do not break them.

Steven Meredith

Steven is a full-time freelance writer based in Wales. He joined the Seedsman team in 2018, contributing articles on a number of topics including global news, cultivation and strain profiles.