There are four methods of consuming marijuana these days eating edibles, dabbing, smoking and vaporizing. Simplified consumers smoke it, eat it, vape it or dab it. Of course, each of these four methods has numerous options among them. For now, we are focusing specifically on the differences between smoking and vaporizing marijuana.
Conduction versus Combustion versus Convection
The image below illustrates the differences between conduction, combustion, and convection. Simply put Convection is the heat source that is necessary to vape. Combustion is needed in order to smoke. Conduction is that area snaking the edge of combustion. Heated enough to almost spark but no actual flame has occurred. Conductions temperature are well over the threshold to be considered vaporizing.
- Combustion – using a flame, very high heat (see below)
- Conduction – touches heat source, stir to drop temp
- Convection – warm air all around, heat source clear
Each of the variant types, stains, and breeds has a threshold boiling point. This variant will affect the type of device used to consume. To simplify, the higher the temperature the more toxins that are released or could be released.
- Vaporizing: occurs between 325 – 400 degrees, the optimal range of temperature is 350 – 375 degrees.
- Smoking: occurs between 375 degrees and higher or when a flame has been created.
Possible Side Effects – Respiratory issues and aggravation, chronic cough, munchies, asthma, COPD, lung disease, a lingering smell, yellowed teeth, and fingers
Types of Smoking Varieties
(Direct quotes in this section had been found and are being shared with special thanks to the writers of the Urban Dictionary.)
- Blunts – marijuana is wrapped in a cigar-like paper or a hollowed out cigar and smoked in the same manner as a joint. Blunts tend to not burn as hot or as quickly. Can be a harsher than average alternative to smoke.
- Bongs – I found best described by the urban dictionary, “a device made of clay, ceramic, plastic tubing or PVC, glass, a two-liter coke bottles, or any other man-made or fabricated substance that is normally filled with water to smoke fine and tasty nuggets of marijuana with; can be of varying lengths and sizes”
- Bowls – “the part of a marijuana (weed, pot, ganja, etc.) pipe in which the marijuana is placed (packed) to be smoked. it may have a little hole (carb) on the side of it, which you cover while you are inhaling the marijuana smoke while holding the whole pipe and smoking.” This can include things like a crafted toilet paper tube, aluminum can, aluminum foil, random fittings found everywhere or as classy as a hand was blown glass piece and are also found in various lengths and sizes.
- Bubblers – “A device used for smoking pot. Different from a bong in that a bubbler tends to be smaller, and does not have a removable bowl. In a bong, when you want to pull your hit through, you take out the bong. In a bubbler, you let go of the shottie (a hole in the side). The concept behind a bubbler is similar to a pipe, except there is water involved.”
- Joints – are paper rolled cigarette-like marijuana cigarettes. The paper is known to burn very hot and very fast.
- E-cigs – although almost all of them claim to be a portable dry herb device most are improperly advertised as they are placing herb in direct contact or direct exposure with the heating coil. The heating coil may as well be a direct flame as hot as it is making the herb.
E-cigs Necessary Accessories – Glass Screen Filter: add to the e-cigs to keep from combusting. Not all brands offer this accessory so be watchful when purchasing.
Possible side effects – Respiratory issues, chronic cough, asthma, COPD, increased heart rate or racing heart
I am sure like many of the doctors that the possible vaporizing side effects with change over time as vapes are still relatively new items.
Types of Vaporizer Varieties
- Dry herb vaporizers – such as the common e-cig, may or may not allow the product to touch the heating element, little is truly known as few test have been done. These most commonly heat up dry plant parts.
- Vape Pens – tend to be used to heat up a concentrated cannabis oil or wax.
- Vapes made of plastic – can be known to release a volatile array of toxins as the plastic gets hot or even starts to melt.
- Vapes with glass parts – lessen the toxic risks as little to no plastic parts but hold a higher cost.
Potential issues arise when vaping oils and waxes. They are known to all have a different extraction process. They might have additives that are unknown. Could contain harsh chemicals. They lack any sort of regulations while also risking consumers to inhale potentially harmful solvents.
THC levels are also hard to know or regulate. In the plant form, the average THC levels are 10-20% whereas in the waxes and oils this THC level could jump as high as 70% and up.
Is Vaporizing Marijuana Healthier than Smoking Marijuana
We have very little way of knowing what the effects are of the act of smoking or vaping as cannabis research is desperately lacking. We have access to even less information on the effects of vaping, vaporizers (long term or short term).
Tests and Studies – Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment recently found in a study that vaping marijuana can lead to ammonia in the vapor measuring toxic levels. Asthma attacks, lung irritations, and ill effects on the nervous systems are a few issues known to be caused by ammonia. The report, however, did not give any more details than that currently.
According to one Dr. Mitch Earleywine when asked about the medical risks quoted: “Anything that lights the plant on fire creates respiratory irritants.” It is said that vaporizing marijuana emits a vapor that is as much as 80-98% free from smoke as well as a carcinogen, though this percentage varies by study and report.
Smoke High versus Vape High
- Smoke High – is felt in the head and throughout the body. Known for its relaxing components, dulling aches and creating a happy-go-lucky feeling. Leads one to an overall “good mood” which can also make some feel “heavy” or lazy. Known to cause dry mouth and cause one to get the munchies.
The cons can include a dry mouth, munchies, and a lingering smell. Creates a second-hand smoke that like most marijuana areas has yet to be properly tested or studied.
- Vape High – similar to the smoke high is felt in the head. You do not get that “stuck” feeling typically. Uses less product due to the lack of fire. No lingering smell, no smoke, no stained teeth and no ashtray is needed.
The cons are you sober more quickly normally. Some have an issue with becoming light headed. The high does not last as long nor is it felt as “strongly”.
The Bottom Line
The older the smoker the more set in their way whereas the younger and newer smokers tend to be more adventurous when it comes to trying new things. There is no wrong or right answer as to which way to smoke is better. Personal preference is the key!