Why Vaping Weed Is Healthier Than Smoking It, According To Science
For most of us, pleasure drives drug use. But regardless of whether it’s pleasure you seek, or therapeutic relief and treatment, typically the benefits come with a cost: some risk of harm or compromise of personal health and safety. And though doctors and scientists are increasingly coming to the conclusion that cannabis is often a safer alternative to opioids, for instance, marijuana is no exception. Whether you use herbal cannabis, oil or resin, and whether you use it medically or recreationally – but particularly for patients – the biggest risk of smoking weed is the smoke itself.
Spoiler alert: science has a happy ending for this story…
Combustion, not the cannabis itself, is the culprit. Cannabis smoke contains the same kind of cancer-causing chemicals as cigarette smoke. Unlike with cigarette smoking, however, researchers aren’t linking marijuana smoking with increased cancer risk: according to Donald P. Tashkin, MD, emeritus professor of medicine at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine (via HuffPo): “Findings from a limited number of well-designed epidemiological studies do not suggest an increased risk for the development of either lung or upper airway cancer from light or moderate use.” And even heavy use has “far lower risks for pulmonary complications” than tobacco use, Tashkin said.
Can we have our cake and eat it too? Science says (kinda) yes, and the answer could literally be right under your nose.
But marijuana smoking does “cause visible and microscopic injury to the large airways that is consistently associated with an increased likelihood of symptoms of chronic bronchitis that subside after cessation of use,” according to Tashkin.
Vaping seems to reduce the harmful lung effects of smoking.
This is a big deal, since the biggest risk of smoking weed is the smoke itself.
“People who vaporize report decreased respiratory symptoms” compared to those who smoke weed, according to Marilyn Huestis (to BuzzFeed News), chief of chemistry and drug metabolism at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, who has studied the physiological effects of vaping marijuana.
Unlike a joint or bong, vaporizers heat cannabis to temperatures that release cannabinoids – the good stuff secreted by cannabis flowers that get you high and provide relief to an array of symptoms including pain, nausea, anxiety, and inflammation—in a fine mist without creating the toxins associated with combustion.
“It was the product we wanted in our lives,” Mark Williams, a former Apple developer and CEO of vaporization technology company Firefly said in a statement provided to KINDLAND.
“Firefly was designed around the plant,” Rachel Dugas, who oversees Firefly’s marketing efforts, told KINDLAND. “And the dynamic convection heating creates something we call the ‘whole plant experience.’”
According to Dugas, the dynamic convection heating technology “only vaporizes the contents of the bowl as [the user] inhales,” to cut down on wasted plant materials. And that, “vapor is created at a range of temperatures, which means [the user] is able to capture more active ingredients in the plant than they would with other vaporizers where certain terpenes and ingredients would have already been vaporized and denatured before they even inhale,” she said.
“Because nothing is burned, it does not produce the same toxic byproducts that smoking does,” Dugas told KINDLAND.
Cannabis Before and After Vaporization:
The result is that “respiratory symptoms like cough, phlegm, and tightness in the chest… are less severe among users of a vaporizer,” according to Dr. Mitch Earlywine, a drug researcher and Professor of Psychology at the State University of New York at Albany.
The relative positive impact of using a vaporizer has also been shown to be larger as the amount of cannabis used increases. According to the study’s authors, “regular users of joints, blunts, pipes, and water pipes might decrease respiratory symptoms by switching to a vaporizer.”
Safer use can also be more enjoyable use.
The Highway Code is a guide to safer, more enjoyable drug use—created by the Global Drug Survey, an independent research company based in London—voted for by “people who actually use drugs”; almost 80,000 people who took part in the Global Drug Survey 2014.
The results seem to suggest that safer drug use can be more enjoyable drug use: of 10 harm-reduction factors identified and rated by 38,000 cannabis users in the survey, ‘Use Vaporizer’ came out on top in importance in reducing risk. Moreover, 57% of these respondents said using a vaporizer also improved their “cannabis-related pleasure.”
From the Highway Code:
“Smoking cannabis is the most dangerous way of using it. Burning cannabis is the thing that releases tar and cancer causing chemicals. Unlike a joint or bong, a vaporiser heats cannabis to below its combustion temperature to produce a vapour. This means that the THC is released but the smoke containing tar and toxins is significantly reduced. Whilst the evidence is not conclusive, it is likely that vaporisers reduce the risk to your lungs. It is also likely that some types of vaporisers are better than others in protecting your health.”
Another 2016 study conducted via online survey by a team of Dartmouth researchers, “Characterizing Vaporizer Use Among Cannabis Users” concluded:
“Those that preferred vaping reported it to be healthier, better tasting, produced better effects, and more satisfying.”
Certainly, vaping has emerged as less of a trend and more of a consciously arrived-at-decision for the new school of cannabis consumers, and lifelong weed users who seek a cleaner high.
With this in mind, Firefly‘s Williams says educating consumers of the vape-method is one of his company’s most pressing challenges: “It’s a bit of a complex topic, but it is crucial to understand.”
Firefly’s Dugas concurs with these claims, and refers to vaping as “mindful” consumption.
“Because of the way that [the device] works you are forced to pay more attention to your breath, which is one of the main tools for guided meditation,” Dugas said to KINDLAND. “This puts you into the perfect mindset for being present and enjoying your vape sesh to the fullest.”
With both the health advantage, and the user experience, the vaporizer itself matters a lot. While a sub-par vaporizer will fall short in at least one category, the best vaporizers can deliver enhanced experiences with significantly reduced side effects to smoking.
Vaporization, by the numbers:
According to a study conducted by California NORML and MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies), vaporizers convert approximately 46 percent of available THC into vapor, whereas the average joint converts less than 25 percent of THC into smoke. That means both more bang for your buck, and a better, cleaner high. Comparing cannabis vapor to smoke, the study found the vapors to “consist overwhelmingly of THC, the major active component in marijuana, whereas the combusted smoke contained over 100 other chemicals, including several polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), carcinogenic toxins that are common in tobacco smoke.”
In a 2007 study by University of California San Francisco researchers (‘Smokeless Cannabis Delivery Device Found Efficient and Less Toxic’), “patients rated the ‘high’ they experienced from both smoking and vaporization and there was no difference between the two methods by patient self-report of the effect, according to study findings.” In addition, patients were asked which method they preferred: “By a significant majority, patients preferred vaporization to smoking, choosing the route of delivery with the fewest side effects and greatest efficiency.”
This story was originally published on KINDLAND.
Vaping Is the Easiest Way to Smoke Weed—But May Be the Most Harmful
The past two years, vaping has become the poster child for chill. But the portable devices are looking a lot less cool these days: Federal health officials announced last week that hundreds of people across the country have been hospitalized this summer with a mysterious and very serious lung infection linked to vaping, and now five people have died.
We don’t know what the illness is exactly—docs say the scans look like a bacterial or viral pneumonia that’s attacked the lungs, but their tests show no infection. But we do know it’s affecting folks (namely teens and young 20-somethings) who’ve used either e-cigarettes or cannabis oil vape pens.
Now, the FDA and New York State Department of Health are pointing to a new culprit within cannabis pens: After testing the cartridges used by people who have vaped THC oil and suffered lung damage, lab results show almost all contain high levels of vitamin E acetate.
Can CBD Live Up to the Hype?
“We know Vitamin E is a common allergen. It used to be in most skincare products, but people were getting rashes enough that manufacturers stopped putting it in things,” explains Harvard physician and cannabis medicine specialist Jordan Tisher, M.D. “If you inhale it, you’re getting the equivalent of a rash on your lungs, which could be deadly.”
But the reality is, while this additive certainly isn’t helping anyone’s health, it’s really just one piece of the problem of vaping any liquid, including cannabis oil, he says.
This Symptom Can Be an Important Clue That You Have High Blood Pressure
The Real Risks of Cannabis Vape Pens
We know e-cigarettes wreak havoc on your health. But we don’t know much about the safety—or risk—of cannabis oil vape pens, says Kent Hutchison, Ph.D., founder of the Center for Research and Education Addressing Cannabis and Health at the University of Colorado Boulder.
But in all likelihood, outside of nicotine and tobacco, cannabis oil vape pens actually pose much of the same risks as their federally legal counterparts. Propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin—both in the liquid within e-cigarettes and cannabis vape pens—have been linked to chest tightness and wheezing; the flavorings are potentially carcinogenic when heated; and vaping even nicotine-free substances prevents your blood vessels from dilating, which isn’t good for heart health or athletic performance, and raises inflammation levels.
“The real problem with vape pens is you have no control over the temperature,” Tishler says. Part of what makes cigarettes more harmful than e-cigarettes, or joints more harmful than vaping cannabis flower, is that combustion changes the chemical structure of what’s being burned. “Vaporizing may be healthier, but these devices heat to the point of combustion, and that degrades whatever the material is—vegetable oil, cannabis terpenes, basically any added oil—into a carcinogen,” Tishler explains.
Everything Men Need to Know About Beating Cancer
Are Legal Devices Safe?
The silver lining most are holding on to as this health epidemic grows is that health officials are mostly pointing to black market vape pens as the real problem—that is, people are getting sick from cannabis oil and vaporization devices that have been purchased outside a dispensary and are therefore made of questionable quality.
But even cartridges from dispensaries aren’t necessarily safe. “Every state has its own rules on what it’ll test for in cannabis products and what’s allowed in the manufacturing process,” Tishler points out.
And that’s the real message of this growing epidemic, says Ryan Vandrey, Ph.D., who studies behavioral pharmacology of cannabis, nicotine, and tobacco at Johns Hopkins University: These are poorly regulated industries. The standards of quality are different from state to state, and we don’t even know if legalized states have the resources available to them (e.g., manpower and money) to establish and follow regulations.
Is Coconut Oil Really ‘Poison’? Experts Weigh In
Quick clarification: There are two kinds of cannabis vape pens—one for oil and one for flower. These risks are exclusive to vaping cannabis oil.
But that’s also what vast majority of recreational smokers reach for: “There are so many factors that make these pens attractive,” says Vandrey. “Handheld oil vaporizers are terribly convenient, small, discreet, odorless, deliver multiple doses, and don’t look like a joint. Plus there’s the perception of decreased health risk: The rollout of e-cigarettes framed the devices as a safer approach to smoking, and that gets generalized to all kinds of smoking.”
The 10 Best Ways to Keep Bones Healthy
So What’s There to Do?
The FDA and CDC are warning people to stay away from any kind of oil vaping device, whether it’s an e-cigarette or cannabis pen, at the very least until they can nail down what’s hurting and killing people.
Tishler would argue that everyone stay away from them always. “Oil vape pens are bad devices and I’ve been saying this for years. I recommend all my patients stay away from them,” he says.
The cleanest of all routes is tinctures or edibles, since inhaling anything is going to irritate your lungs somewhat, Hutchinson says. But both take longer to kick in and are harder to control the dose of.
The healthiest method of ingestion for immediate effect: Vape dry cannabis flower. It seems like a close cousin, but it’s actually a completely different beast—and a much healthier one, Tishler says.
For starters, you avoid the issue of questionable additives in oils (though you do want to buy flower that’s been tested for mold and pesticides). But the real key is temperature: “Quality flower vapes come with a heat regulator and as long as you stay under 350°F, you’re actually vaporizing and not hitting combustion, so you’re minimizing the risk of carcinogens,” he explains.
For access to exclusive gear videos, celebrity interviews, and more, subscribe on YouTube!
Can You Smoke CBD Oil?
The surge in popularity of wellbeing supplement cannabidiol has seen suppliers providing all sorts of different ways in which their customers can use it.
We’ve seen almost every product imaginable; from CBD bath bombs and shampoos to CBD gummies, and even CBD lube.
The most common way to take CBD is via tincture oil drops, but you can also use CBD in a topical cream, water-soluble shot, slow-release CBD skin patch and finely milled hemp powder.
But one aspect of CBD that we don’t tend to cover on this site is one that many people are talking about online: smoking it.
So, can you smoke or vape CBD oil?
Can You Smoke CBD Oil?
You can choose to smoke CBD by dabbing – using a dab rig or portable dab pen – vaping with CBD vape juice and a vape pen or, if you’re in the US, smoking a CBD hemp joint.
Smoking CBD is popular because it has a high bioavailability, which means it is quickly absorbed into the human body. Because the CBD oil reaches the bloodstream quickly, it takes effect much more quickly, usually within just a few minutes, giving users an almost instantaneous impact.
Some people choose to smoke CBD oil because they don’t like the natural taste, which can take some getting used to for those with a sensitive palate. If you choose to vape it, you can even add different flavours to suit your taste – and still make the most of the rapid absorption benefits.
But smoking CBD is not the only way to achieve high bioavailability and a taste-free experience. There are plenty of other effective products that come with less risk, and most experts would advocate not smoking at all to protect your health.
Will Vaping CBD Get You High?
CBD is a non-psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plant, but despite the stigma attached to smoking cannabis, smoking CBD oil will not make you high.
The compound in recreational cannabis that gives users the “high” associated with the plant is THC, or Tetrahydrocannabinol.
By law, CBD products in the UK must contain a THC content of less than 0.2%, and are required to be made from approved strains of the cannabis sativa plant that already have very low levels of THC, meaning that any legally manufactured and lab-verified CBD oil will not get you high.
Are There Any Risks Involved In Smoking CBD Oil?
There is always a risk of lung damage and respiratory issues involved with smoking anything. This is due to the smoke itself, rather than the substance being smoked and there are plenty of studies to indicate that smoking is likely to lead to numerous health problems, including heart disease, stroke, lung cancer or emphysema.
One important thing to remember is that if you are using a vape pen to smoke your CBD, you can’t just add a sublingual CBD oil to the canister.
CBD vape liquids are made by mixing CBD extract with an emulsifier to make it suitable for vaping. Inhaling regular CBD oil is not good for your health and can be dangerous.
Another potential problem users might run into when smoking CBD is that it has a similar smell to cannabis, which means it can easily be mistaken for something illegal.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately it is your choice as to how you take your CBD dose – there are a whole host of different approaches to fit in with your lifestyle and your needs.
We still aren’t 100% sure on whether there are any long-term benefits to vaping cannabinoids, and while vaping can be a great way to help break dangerous habits such as smoking – there are still questions over cannabinoids turning toxic when vaping and the potential long-lasting effects of vaping itself.
I’ve yet to come across a really good full-spectrum CBD vape, and I’ve even tried one that made me feel sick and had a bad taste. If you’re looking for different ways to take CBD there are far safer ways than smoking or vaping.