If we think about it, smoking has been a part of human lives for hundreds of years. In fact, many centuries ago, our ancestors would recreationally and medicinally inhale and exhale smoke through a variety of innovative mediums – innovative at the time, anyway.
Today, we have cigarettes for convenience and ease-of-use, but these involve inhaling tar and other harmful toxins, which can be harmful not just to your own health, but others around you as well. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are over 5,000 harmful chemicals present in cigarette smoke.
Up until nearly four decades ago, smoking was considered pretty much normal and ‘second nature’. People could casually light up cigarettes in all kinds of places including airplanes, restaurants and even hospitals. Ironically, some doctors even supported the idea of smoking in the 1940s and 1950s.
Fast forward to 2020 and people have become quite the health-conscious and mindful individuals. From bypassing fizzy drinks and microwaved food to quitting smoking and keeping alcohol consumption in check, people are now truly giving their health the priority it rightfully deserves.
This is why many cannabis smokers have stopped smoking their herb altogether and opted for vaping instead.
Is Vaping a healthier alternative to smoking?
Even though research on the long-term effects of vaping is still ongoing, it is generally believed to be a safer alternative to smoking because you’re not inhaling tobacco smoke, and the associated carcinogens, into your lungs – from which the tar build-up alone can cause serious health complications.
To understand the purported benefits of this technology, we first need to understand what vaping is.
Vaporising is the process of electronically heating up dried marijuana, oils or wax in a battery powered vaporiser. The cannabis is heated to a temperature just below its combustion point – 200°C, which prevents you burning your weed, but rather activates and releases the cannabinoids and terpenes – converting them into vapour (or aerosol to be precise) which can be inhaled. And since there’s no smoke, unlike when you consume weed in a spliff or blunt, vaping cannabis offers certain practical advantages and health benefits.
Two of the most common ways of vaping are liquid vaping and dried herb vaping. E-liquids are consumed using custom-made cannabinoid containing e-liquids, consumed in a vape pen (e-cigarette technology). The liquids are commonly made with propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin, a cannabis distillate, and the addition of terpenes and specifically chosen cannabinoids. There’s no combustion involved, unlike smoked products.
Some users prefer dried herb vaping, where the dried cannabis flowers are vaporised. Buds are usually ground up prior to being added to the chambers of a portable or desktop vaping device. Depending on this device, the dried herb can be vaporised at different temperatures in order to enjoy controlled effects from the terpenes and cannabinoids present in the plant material.
What are the Benefits of Vaping?
Even though vaping has only gained popularity in the last 5-10 years, it has won over the hearts of many cannabis users and enthusiasts. And certainly with good reason because it offers a number of rather attractive benefits over smoking, while still offering a superb cannabis experience:
Healthy alternative to smoking cannabis
One of the main benefits that regular vaping users are quick to identify with is that it generally offers a purer and healthier experience.
Since vaporising requires users to heat up their cannabis only to the point where it causes the cannabinoids and terpenes to evaporate, the vapours themselves do not contain any of the carbon-monoxide, tar or other harmful toxins – which would otherwise be consumed if cannabis is directly smoked. Vaping results in a higher concentration of active ingredients being inhaled, together with less of the bad stuff, resulting in a more efficient and cleaner way to consume weed.
However, it is worth noting that there remains a lot about the long-term effects of vaping that we don’t know, as it is a relatively recent phenomenon. 2019 saw a spate of ‘cannavaping’ fatalities and health emergencies in the US, sparking concern over whether vaping was as safe as people had assumed. The conclusion drawn by the CDC was that the vape juice additive Vitamin E acetate was most likely the reason behind the lung injury reported from the use of vaping products. Although the use of this additive has now been outlawed (or is in the process of being so), the regulation of e-liquids varies from state to state and country to country, and where cannabis e-liquids are illegal, the products are entirely unregulated.
The smell factor (no more)
Vaporising does not produce the same dense lingering smoke that combustion does. The vapour will effortlessly disperse in just a few seconds after exhalation, and unless you have people standing within close proximity (who will only be able detect it briefly), no one will ever know that you just used your vaporiser.
Now, as you might imagine this offers quite a few advantages. For one, your room, home or clothes will no longer reek of smoke – and for another, you can enjoy a certain element of stealth, as the vapour will disperse completely after just a metre or so. This offers a neat little advantage to those who need to consume their herb while on the go. In fact, it’s one of the reasons that vape or vaping pens have become so wildly popular in recent years.
The stealth factor
Building on from the previous advantage, using a vaporiser is an extremely discreet way of enjoy your favourite strain, particularly if you do it through a vape pen. The smell won’t travel far, and neither will it linger on clothes. Not just that, but it’s also very easy to quickly hide away your vape pen, should the need ever arise.
Since vape pens bear a striking resemblance to e-cigarettes, it may even be possible to have a nice vape session in the middle of the day without anyone really paying attention to you – unless of course, you’re standing right next to someone. All in all, it’s a smart way of getting high on the move.
Dosing is easy
Both smoking and vaping cannabis offer an easy way to control the dose because you feel the effects almost instantaneously. However, for novices or irregular consumers of cannabis, it is worth noting that vaping has been shown to deliver greater amounts of THC than smoking, which can increase the likelihood of adverse effects for those with little tolerance to the herb. So when starting out with vaping go slow, until you figure out the right dose for you.
Vaping is the most efficient way to enjoy your herb. In fact, reports have suggested that vaping is 30-40% more efficient than traditional marijuana smoking. So at the end of the day, you’re using less cannabis to enjoy the same high.
Let’s say we consider an efficiency of 30% – this means you’ll be using a complete one-third less product than normal – potentially creating a good amount of money savings over the long run. In fact, this saving can even pay for the vaporiser itself in as little as 6-8 months, although this depends on your daily consumption habits.
‘Vaped’ cannabis can be reused
If you don’t burn your cannabis at 500°C or higher, you can reuse it – because when cannabis is burnt, it turns to char once you smoke it all up. However, with vaping, cannabis typically becomes semi-brown. While you can’t re-vape the stuff, you can certainly use them in edibles and feel the effects – granted, they won’t be as strong.
Although our knowledge of the long-term health impacts of vaping is still evolving, it is widely considered to be less harmful than smoking, due to the lack of toxins inhaled. Tighter regulations of e-liquid ingredients would go a long way to making it even safer, because there are still unknowns associated with the use of certain additives in the vape juice. Likewise, a legal cannabis market would increase the safety, because illegal vape products may contain unregulated and potentially harmful ingredients.