Do you vape? If so, then you’re in the company of over nine million people according to the Centers for Disease Control or CDC. You might wonder though, what negative effects you may suffer if you vape cannabis? Like, Is it bad for your lungs?
Vaping cannabis might be safer for your lungs than smoking it. Researchers believe those who vape will ingest fewer carcinogenic compounds compared to cannabis smokers. It has to do with the way a vaporizer heats the cannabis since the vaporizer only cooks the buds instead of setting them on fire.
Does it make a difference if you vaporize or combust cannabis? Does vaping cannabis provide any health benefits since it’s not as bad for your lungs? We’ll answer those questions and more in this article.
What Is Vaping?
Let’s begin with a clear definition of vaping. Also known as vaporizers, e-cigarettes, or electronic cigarettes. When you vape, you smoke with one of these devices. You’re not really smoking, per se.
Instead, what happens when you vape goes like this: you warm up the vaporizer, which has your dry herb, extract or e-liquid inside. As this oven/coil gets warmer, the cannabis vaporizes. You then breathe this in and smoke like you would a cigarette.
Compare this to smoking. When you light a cigarette or a joint, you burn what’s within it. As this occurs, you pass substances to your lungs. These substances then move to your bloodstream and finally, your tissue.
When you vape, you’ll use one of several types of vaporizers. The first type, concentrate vaporizers, also go by the name wax vaporizers or e-nails.
With a wax vaporizer, you’ll find a compartment inside the vape that includes a heating coil. When you put your concentrates in the vaporizer, the coil heats it up. This is quite a clean, discreet and efficient way to get your THC hit.
You might also use a dry herb vaporizer like the Arizer Go (ARGO), in which you fill the vape with dry flowers or dry herbs. There are no liquid cartridges here, so this gives you a more authentic experience akin to smoking a joint. However, there are fewer health risks to worry about.
Is Vaping Cannabis Bad for Your Lungs?
As we just covered, the main difference between vaping and smoking has to do with the heating versus burning of the cannabis. Does that necessarily make vaping safer than smoking weed?
One study from February 2016 that appeared in the Drug Alcohol Depend seems to support this evidence. The study included researchers from the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth’s Department of Psychiatry.
The researchers gathered a group of those who used cannabis, 2,910 people in all. Most were Caucasian, 74 percent. The overwhelming majority of those in the study were also male, 84 percent. The age range started at 18 all the way through 90.
Not everyone in the study called themselves long-term vapers. Only 61 percent said they “endorsed lifetime prevalence of ever vaping.” Some had vaped for over 100 days (21 percent). Yet another group had vaped much more recently, within the last month (37 percent).
As you might expect, vapers skewed younger. They were also predominantly African-American. This group said they preferred vaping cannabis to smoking it because it was “more satisfying,” “produced better effects,” tasted better, and was considered healthier.
Does that necessarily mean vaping is the healthier alternative to smoking cannabis, especially when it comes to the lungs? This study by Scott Goodrich, Joseph St. Laurent, and Dale Gieringer that appeared in the fourth volume of Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics says yes.
The study compared those who smoke cannabis versus those who vape it. They mentioned that smokers have a greater likelihood of getting respiratory infections and bronchitis.
Why do more cannabis smokers develop respiratory health issues? The study states that the smoke pyrolysis byproducts cause the conditions. It’s not the cannabinoids themselves, though.
The same study goes on to mention that each time you smoke cannabis instead of vape it, you’re spreading more than 100 different compounds and toxins. You’re then at a higher risk of breathing these in when you smoke cannabis. Also, as we talked about in the intro, vapers will inhale less carcinogenic compounds compared to smokers.
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Does Vaping Provide Any Health Benefits?
Now that you’ve seen some scientific studies backing up vaping over smoking cannabis, you may wonder, does vaping provide any health benefits? There are a few, which we will discuss in more depth now.
Lower Risk of Fire Hazards
While vaping isn’t totally fireproof, since you’re not dealing with an open flame, it’s safer in that regard. That said, sometimes the battery packs in some vaporizers can cause issues, including fire.
There are some known stories of e-cigarettes exploding, but this doesn’t happen often. In fact, most of these incidents are attributed to a user error with batteries. Battery safety is Paramount so check out this guide if you need to be sure.
Overall, since you don’t burn anything, vaping should be safer than smoking cannabis or cigarettes.
Less Yellow Skin
When you smoke, the particles go to the lungs, then to the bloodstream, and finally, your tissue. We mentioned this earlier. With time, some smokers may notice their skin yellows. This happens especially often with long term cigarette smokers.
When you vape, you’re inhaling fewer particles and compounds. This means you shouldn’t notice any unfortunate changes to your complexion.
No Stained Teeth
Cigarette smokers don’t just have to deal with yellowed skin. Their teeth will also begin to yellow the more they smoke. Sometimes their fingers darken as well. If you compare a smile of a smoker and that of a vaper, you should see a major difference. Vaping doesn’t stain or discolor your teeth.
No Lingering Smell
Breathing in secondhand cigarette smoke is not only unappealing, but it could cause cancer if it happens often enough. If you live with a cigarette smoker, then you know how the smell just hangs around for hours. Not only that, but it gets on anything and everything: clothing, upholstery, furniture, bedding. It feels like there’s no escape.
That’s due to the chemicals and tar that get burned off when smoking. To an extent, even smoking cannabis produces a pretty pungent smell. If you’ve ever been at a concert or sporting event and could smell the weed through a crowd, then you know exactly what we mean.
While some people will complain about vaping smells, they’re not nearly as odorous. That’s because vaporized cannabis dissipates into the environment quickly. it’s certainly more attractive than secondhand smoke from a cigarette or even cannabis joints.
Read our Article on Is Passive Weed Vaping Harmful.
Should You Always Vape vs. Smoke?
If you’re a cannabis smoker, should you move immediately to vaping? Research seems to indicate that yes, especially if you care about your long-term health.
Speaking of health, when you’re vaping, you have to pay attention to the temperature of your vaporizer. A study from Leiden University’s Institute of Biology in the Netherlands back in 2009 compared vaping temperatures and health effects.
In the study, the researchers gathered three groups of vapers. Some vaped cannabis at 338 degrees Fahrenheit, others at 393 degrees, and yet another group at 446 degrees. The results were tracked via high-performance liquid chromatography.
The researchers found that there was a greater cannabinoid-to-byproduct ratio when the cannabis was heated at 392 to 446 degrees. That meant the vapers ingested fewer toxins.
Cannabichromene or CBC will release at 451 degrees, which is close but not quite the temperature needed for combustion. Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, also known as THCA, gets released at 220 through 428 degrees. Generally speaking, the higher the temperature the heavier the stoned feeling.
It’s important then to heat up cannabis higher than the usual 356 through 392 degrees most vapers do. This becomes doubly true if you use cannabis for pain treatments or other medicinal purposes. If you vape for recreational use or for any other reason, there’s no need to monitor the temperature of your vaporizer as closely.
The Final Puff
Vaping has caught on and become all the rage. By smoking electronic vaporizers, vapers can “smoke” marijuana without burning it. There’s an important distinction to be made there, since burning cannabis means ingesting more compounds, particles, and byproducts. While these may not necessarily cause cancer, smokers could develop respiratory issues and bronchitis.
When you vape, you also get to enjoy a slew of benefits. These include no yellow skin and teeth, no annoying smell, and fewer risks of fire. Whether you smoke or vape cannabis is your choice, but now you’re armed with information to make the right decision for your health.