Smoking vs Vaping Cannabis: The Breakdown
When it comes to enjoying that good green herb, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. But lately, one method of using cannabis has really taken off: vaping.
Vaping is an increasingly popular method of enjoying cannabis for a number of reasons, ranging from health, to purity of experience, to potency. If you’re not familiar with the term, vaping cannabis involves the heating of your herbs to a temperature at which all those wonderful cannabinoids like THC, CBD and flavorful terpenes turn into vapor which you can inhale. That’s right, no need to “light up” anymore.
The ways in which you can vape cannabis vary, as do the devices, which include vape pens and boxes, as well as larger, desktop vaporizers.
Smoking cannabis might seem similar to vaping cannabis, but there are significant differences between the two, especially in terms of health and overall experience. We’ll look into those deeper below so you can decide for yourself which is the better way to go. And unlike many things in life, you can indeed have your cake and eat it too with this one (i.e. no need to only do one or the other).
Knowledge Check: Health Benefits of Terpenes
Health and Vaping Cannabis
Smoking cannabis creates tar and carcinogens due to combustion. Yes, we’ve all heard the arguments about cannabis being healthier than tobacco and that it’s “all natural.” And to a point you are correct…BUT…and this is a big “but”, any time you burn something and create smoke, it is dangerous to your health.
And while there is some evidence that cannabis smoke is less harmful than cigarette smoke, it still exposes your lungs to these harmful substances.
Some of the harmful carcinogens released when you smoke cannabis include benzene, toluene, and naphthalene. Benzene can damage the reproductive system. Toluene comes from benzene, and it may not technically be a carcinogen, but it does negatively impact the central nervous system. It can also irritate your eyes and your upper respiratory system. Naphthalene can destroy red blood cells and cause organ damage.
Inhaling smoke from combustion can also be harsh on your lungs, so if you have respiratory issues, you may want to consider vaping as the better alternative. Vaping does not involve combustion, and the heat generated is much lower. This typically results in a cooler pull, drag or hit, and less lung and throat irritation.
In fact, there is some evidence that vaporizers may even help your lung capacity due to the long pulls you can take on a regular basis and the lack of harmful chemicals and smoke.
Discretion / Secrecy
We hope that you’re being safe and not “hiding” your cannabis use because it’s illegal where you live, but sometimes you just don’t want the whole world around you to know you’re toking up.
If you don’t want to advertise that you are enjoying cannabis, vaping is the way to go. Smoking cannabis leads to heavy clouds and a distinctive odor that clings long after you’ve stopped smoking. Vaping cannabis has little to no odor, and certainly not a lingering one. If you’re concerned about perception or judgment, or simply want to get your fix on the down low, vaping is a discreet way to enjoy your weed.
Ease of Use
Vaping is just as easy, if not easier, than smoking cannabis. Although a vaporizer has parts and components to keep in mind, smoking can also be an involved process, from rolling joints, to cleaning and preparing your bubbler.
Vaporizers do need to be cleaned regularly to maximize flavor, and if you’re vaping on the go, you’ll want to be mindful of battery life. Beyond that, though, vaporizers involve setting the temperature and pushing a button. Ready, set, go!
Smoking can degrade the flavor of cannabis, especially as you work your way through down to the ash. Research has shown that cannabis is best enjoyed (for both potency and flavor) at a temperature that is BELOW the temperature needed for combustion (burning). In fact, combustion not only degrades some of the cannabinoids such as THC, it also degrades and destroys some of the terpenes that make up the wonderful flavor we’ve all come to know and enjoy.
Vaping, on the other hand, preserves all of these cannabinoids intact, and provides a vibrant flavor experience with a cleaner, ash-free taste. And, unlike combustion smoking, vaping allows you to change the flavor profile by experimenting with different temperatures.
When you smoke cannabis, a significant amount of product literally goes up in smoke. Smoking destroys as much as half of the cannabinoids as soon as you light up. If you’re using wax or oil, nearly all of it gets used as you vape. If you’re using the flower, it doesn’t burn up completely as you use it, giving you a chance to get the most for your money.
Getting a vaporizer can be a bit of an investment, of course, but it converts a much higher percentage of THC into vapor than smoking cannabis. In the end, this means you’ll need to buy less bud to get the same effect, saving you more green to buy more green, if you get our drift.
Another advantage that vaping cannabis has over smoking is the ability to customize your experience. To maximize your cannabis experience, we suggest keeping the temperature between 290°F and 370°F. Heating your vaporizer above 445°F will result in combustion, which is something you want to avoid.
Different temperatures provide different vapor and flavor experiences, as well as different levels of potency. We suggest experimenting for yourself to find what works best for you. In general, the lower the temperature the less of a high you will feel. You may want to start with lower temperatures and work your way up until you find the perfect temperature for you.
Many users who have smoked cannabis and vaped cannabis have reported they get more of an effect from vaporizing. The effect might be a bit delayed, though, so give it some time if you’re vaping for the first time. Take a few hits, and then wait 15 to 30 minutes for it to take effect.
Vaping can result in much higher levels of cannabinoids being inhaled as compared to smoking. So always take it easy when trying out new strains, concentrates or oils. Speaking of concentrates, some formulas can have as much as TEN times the amount of THC in them.
Better for Medical Purposes
For those who are turning to cannabis for medicinal rather than recreational reasons, it seems silly to utilize a method that can worsen your health, like smoking. If you’re using cannabis for the CBD content, vaping a cbd cartridge provides an easy way to ingest your cannabis without the bad smell or taste involved with smoking. You can also adjust the temperature to your liking.
Types of Vaporizers
If you’re ready to make the switch from smoking cannabis to vaping, or if you just want to add it to your repertoire, you have plenty of options to choose from.
These vaporizers are large and designed to sit on a table or desk. If you plan to use cannabis at home, this can be an ideal option as they provide the most customization options. These models typically plug into the wall rather than using a battery. They have a hose or a bag for you to inhale the vapor. The highest quality vaporizers are a bit of an investment, but they also last the longest and give you the most precise controls. Temperature can significantly impact your experience, so you may want to try a variety of temperatures, even with the same cannabis strain, to see the effects.
Portable Devices for Dry Herbs
Portable vaping devices (like box mods or pens) allow you to enjoy your cannabis on the go. These portable devices come in a range of styles and designs, with higher end options typically having more features including aspects like temperature control, wattage adjustments and more.
Portable Devices for Oils and Waxes
Not all devices are made for using the same materials. For example, a device designed for dry herbs might not be able to vaporize oils or concentrates. Oil and wax devices are typically small and are perfect for discretion as well as those on a tight budget. Depending on the model, these can be used for dabbing (dab pens) or for longer sessions with oil cartridges or tanks.
What to Look for in a Vaporizer
Once you’ve settled on the type of vaporizer you want to try, there are some other factors to keep in mind when vaping cannabis. Read on to learn more…
Cannabis vaporizers typically have one of two possible heating methods: conduction and convection. Conduction heating puts the herb in direct contact with the heat source, while convection passes hot air through the chamber. Convection tends to provide better flavor and it provides more temperature control, but convection vaporizers may be more expensive.
If you bought a portable cannabis vaporizer, you want it to work when and where you need it. If you plan on using your device often, you may run out of battery life. If you’re planning to vape frequently, you may want to look for a battery with a longer battery life. Otherwise, plan on being near an outlet or car charger.
Alternatively, you can buy a vaporizer that uses replaceable batteries and keep an extra set on hand. Keep in mind, though, that batteries must be properly stored in a temperature-controlled environment and away from metal. In other words, don’t leave them in your car on a hot or cold day and don’t throw them loosely into a purse or pocket.
Vaporizers can be a bit of an investment, and you want to get the most for your money. If you can, you may want to splurge a bit on a cannabis vaporizer with a solid following and reputation (i.e. skip the Chinese knock offs). Some companies even offer warranties on their products. This is always a good sign, as the company is willing to stand behind their product. User reviews can also be a solid indicator as to the quality of the device. Always do your research.
How to Use a Vaporizer with Cannabis
The way you enjoy your vaporizer will vary from brand to brand, so be sure to review the instructions that come with your particular model. In general, though, vaporizers do have some similarities. We’ll explore some of the basics below…
Vaporizers for Dry Herbs
You may need to preheat your device before use. When you’re using cannabis flowers, you need to make sure you grind them properly and as finely as possible. This provides even heating and equal distribution of vapor across all of the herbs. In general you should place between .25 and .5 grams of herb into the chamber and seal it. Choose your temperature, if you have that option, and start at the low end if you’re new to vaping.
Vaporizers for Concentrates
Concentrates come in a variety of modalities or types. You’ll need to store your concentrates in an airtight container to make sure it doesn’t lose flavor or go bad from exposure to too much moisture. Once you’re ready to vape, use a dabber to avoid touching the concentrate with your fingers, which can degrade the quality of the concentrate. Depending on your device, you will likely need to place the concentrate near the coil in your vaporizer. You may need to press the firing button a few times to preheat the concentrate and prime the wick.
Caring for Your Vaporizer
Cleanliness can have a big impact on the flavor of your cannabis. To avoid contaminating the flavor, clean your vaporizer on a regular basis. You may need to invest in some cleaning accessories, such as a cleaning brush to clean out the chamber of your vape. You should not use water to clean your chamber as that could hurt the internal wiring. You can wipe down the outside and mouthpiece with a cloth. Your vaporizer will include specific cleaning instructions, and if you aren’t sure, contact the company or manufacturer.
Learn More: How to Clean a Vape
Regularly inspect your vaporizer, including the batteries if they are rechargeable. Make sure all the parts are undamaged and replace any parts that seem to be wearing out. The screen, for example, can get quite dirty and periodically needs to be swapped out for a new one.
Most of all, Enjoy!
Whether you choose to vape or smoke your weed is up to you. Each has their own unique benefits and experience. Just partake responsibly and enjoy. And if you have any questions about vaping marijuana, what devices are best, or just want to chat, drop us a line.
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