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Introduction

The debate between vaping and smoking cannabis continues to evolve with advancements in technology and shifting public perceptions. Understanding the nuances of each consumption method is more crucial than ever. This comprehensive guide explores the health implications, user experiences, and efficiency of both vaping and smoking, aiming to provide clarity and insight for both new and seasoned users.

What are Smoking and Vaping?

A Smoking History

Smoking cannabis is by far the oldest and most “traditional” method. It has a long history which archaeological evidence suggests is as early as 5000 years old. People in what is now Romania were burning cannabis seeds. In ancient China, around 2500 years ago, cannabis was used during burial rituals, possibly to communicate with spirits or as a way to alleviate pain. 

Fast forward through the centuries and the use of cannabis pops up all over the place. From Eastern Europe to the Middle East and Central Africa, Cannabis was burnt and smoke inhaled for ritualistic purposes as well as therapeutic and medical purposes. 

These days we tend to associate cannabis with “getting high” in the recreational sense. Ask the non user how they perceive a user and images of a very stereotypical “stoner” might come to mind. It’s sometimes good to remember the history of this plant, and its myriad uses throughout many cultures and thousands of years.

How Smoking is Done Today

Smoking herb has always involved igniting the plant material, and using some method of channelling the smoke into your lungs. These days there’s no shortage of paraphernalia to help make smoking as easy as possible. The most popular and perhaps most well known method is rolling up the herb in some kind of thin paper, lighting one end drawing on the other. Joints, blunts, spliffs etc. 

Bongs and pipes follow joints as the most used method, there is an incredibly huge selection of pipes and bongs out there of varying sizes and shapes. Having such a wide selection will inevitably give rise to the collector, and many others will meet this demand by creating unique, handmade pieces that can be really quite awesome. However it’s done, smoking cannabis results in smoke that delivers psychoactive compounds along with various byproducts of combustion, directly to the lungs. Smoking leads to a more intense and rapid onset effect of the herb.

Vaping, on the other hand, heats cannabis just below the point of combustion, vaporising the active ingredients without burning the plant. Vaping emerged in the early 2000’s, mainly in response to the growing amount of research exposing the harmful effects of inhaling combusted material. 

Of course, vaping can be employed using concentrated cannabis oil or ground dry herb. There are many different types of devices available to give a range of different experiences. Devices such as portable handheld, pen type, and desktop vapes are examples of devices that will vaporise dry herb or concentrates. Then you have devices that vaporise primarily concentrates, these include ball vapes and dab rigs. 

Vaping is considered to potentially reduce the intake of harmful combustion byproducts, making it a preferred method for health-conscious users. In addition, vaping gives you a less intense experience that doesn’t come on as quickly as smoking. The flip side is that you typically get a more drawn out, longer lasting mellow high.

Health Impacts of Smoking and Vaping

Health concerns are a major factor in the choice between vaping and smoking. Smoking cannabis produces tar, carcinogens, and other harmful byproducts that can adversely affect lung health. The combustion itself releases these by-products. We could delve into a whole tangent into chemistry here, but it’s a big rabbit hole.. We’d recommend exploring it, if that’s your thing.

To over simplify it, the harmful chemicals such as tar, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, formaldehyde and ammonia (to name only a few), don’t actually exist in the herb itself. The process of combustion creates them. This is why, according to the American Lung Association, any form of smoking can lead to respiratory issues such as chronic bronchitis and other lung complications.

Vaping is often touted as a healthier alternative due to its avoidance of direct combustion. However, it is not without risks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has highlighted instances of lung injuries associated with vaping, particularly from additives like vitamin E acetate found in some THC oil products. 

Importantly, using dry herb vaporisers can mitigate this risk since they do not require oil cartridges that might contain harmful additives. This makes them a safer choice for those wary of chemical exposure and potential lung injury. It’s also why e-cigarettes should still be used with caution. They are certainly a safer alternative to cigarette smoking, but that doesn’t mean they’re healthy. 

Vaporising your dry herb, or creating your own concentrates and vaporising those seems to be the safest way to consume cannabis. Obviously the responsibility of ensuring the material you’re using is safe and free from harmful additives, falls on you. 

User Experience and Efficacy

The choice between vaping and smoking also significantly affects user experience and the efficacy of cannabis delivery. Vaping allows for precise temperature control, which can selectively vaporise cannabinoids and terpenes without burning them, potentially offering a cleaner and more tailored experience. Lower temperatures often result in a milder high, preserving flavours and terpenes, while higher temperatures can release more cannabinoids, leading to more intense effects. Check out our article where we go into detail about vaping temperatures.

Advanced vaping methods like dabbing and the use of ball vapes can achieve higher temperatures without reaching the point of combustion. These methods handle concentrated forms of cannabis, such as waxes and oils, and produce potent vapours that can mimic the intense highs traditionally associated with smoking, but with potentially fewer toxins

Smoking, by contrast, provides a straightforward and potent experience. The combustion of cannabis releases a wide array of cannabinoids quickly, often resulting in a more immediate and intense high. However, this method also exposes the user to more harmful substances produced during combustion. 

Practical Considerations of Smoking vs Vaping

Practically, vaping devices require an initial investment and regular maintenance, such as charging and cleaning. Many products out there have developed their heating technology to the point where they’re now able to focus on ease of use and ease of cleaning. This means there are plenty of awesome options out there suitable for any budget and feature set that a user is seeking. They offer a discreet and portable option, ideal for users seeking convenience and minimal odour.

Smoking cannabis, while often less expensive upfront, involves continual costs of consumables like rolling papers and can be less discreet due to the strong odours and smoke produced. Of course, there are pipes, which are usually inexpensive and can last a long time. Bongs as well, if you buy a decent one, can last a long time. However these too require cleaning and don’t have the same level of discretion that a vape offers.

Types of Vaping Devices and Smoking Tools

Exploring the variety of devices and tools available for both vaping and smoking can help users make an informed decision. Vaping devices range from small, portable pens to more sophisticated desktop models that offer greater control over temperature and airflow. On the other hand, smoking accessories include simple hand pipes, water pipes (bongs), and rolling papers, each providing different experiences and levels of potency.

The smoking paraphernalia market has been around a lot longer and they’re also far easier to make. This means there is certainly a wider range of smoking options than vape options. However, vaping has proven so popular that the amount of manufacturers and brands is increasing all the time. There are more than enough options out there for everyone. 

Environmental and Social Considerations of Vaping and Smoking

Environmental concerns also play a role in the choice between vaping and smoking. Vape devices, especially those that are disposable, can contribute to electronic waste and environmental degradation. Conversely, smoking involves minimal technology but can contribute to air pollution and second-hand smoke.

The legal landscape significantly influences user choices, with regulated markets offering safer, tested products for both vaping and smoking. Social acceptance and personal health considerations also guide whether individuals choose to vape or smoke.

Safer Consumption Methods

For those concerned about inhalation risks, alternatives like edibles, tinctures, and topicals provide various benefits. Edibles eliminate respiratory risks and offer prolonged effects, though they require careful dosing. Tinctures and topicals offer localised or systemic effects without the risks associated with inhalation.

Conclusion

Vaping and smoking cannabis each have their benefits and risks. Vaping can offer a cleaner intake with fewer toxins if properly managed, particularly with dry herb vaporisers that avoid problematic additives. Smoking provides a traditional, potent experience but at the cost of greater exposure to harmful combustion byproducts.