Smoking Vs. Vaporizing: New Ways to Inhale

A person holding a vaporizer and a man smoking a joint

Before the advent of the vaporizer, smoking cannabis was the only form of cannabis inhalation. Smoking still remains the most popular form of cannabis consumption, but vaporizing offers an effective and more efficient way of inhaling cannabinoids. Overall, vaporizing is a healthier alternative to smoking.

There are many methods of consuming cannabis for both medical and recreational cannabis users. Among recreational users, smoking remains the most popular way to consume. However, both medicinal cannabis users and some recreational users are searching for more health-conscious ways to consume cannabis. Those users generally prefer to vaporize, or to consume edibles.

The highs experienced are different and so the choice essentially boils down to preference. However, depending on the purpose someone uses cannabis, there may be an inclination towards a certain method.

Smoking cannabis

There is no doubt that smoking cannabis releases polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) which are pre-carcinogens. The same is true for smoking tobacco. However, the endpoints of these PAHs are potentially different with the two.

For example, for these pre-carcinogens to be converted to carcinogens, they must be exposed to the enzymatic activity of the cytochrome P4501A1 oxidase protein. This occurs pretty readily with tobacco, but in one study on rodents, while THC administration led to pre-carcinogens, THC simultaneously inhibited the activity of the enzyme responsible for converting them to carcinogens. Therefore, cannabis and tobacco smoke may be fundamentally different because of their biological properties. 

A person lighting a joint with a lighter

This does not mean that smoking cannabis isn’t without its dangers, but it should not be compared to smoking tobacco. Even though combustion actually destroys a lot of the active ingredients in cannabis, the amount of cannabinoids received is generally high enough to create the desired level of intoxication. The tip of a joint typically reaches about 900 °C (1650 °F), more than 750 °C (1380 °F) higher than what is required to release cannabinoids. Because of this, a lot of the cannabinoids and terpenes get destroyed.

For recreational cannabis users who don’t use cannabis frequently, smoking is often the preferred method. This is because infrequent use may not create the desire to purchase a vaporizer, which is much more expensive than purchasing papers and filter tips.

With that being said, when smoked pure, cannabis is not as dangerous as tobacco. Cannabis does not cause obstructions of the small airways, although scientists do not know why cannabis doesn’t do this.

Vaporizing cannabis

There are two different kinds of vaporizers. One is for vaporizing cannabis flowers while another is for vaporizing e-liquids (also often referred to as vape pens). Vaporizing cannabis flowers requires a specific vaporizer optimised for this.

A vaporizer’s role is to heat up the cannabinoids contained in the cannabis plant to their boiling temperature, thus extracting them by way of evaporation.

When compared to smoking dried cannabis flowers, a vaporizer is a much healthier choice for all people eager to benefit from the many medicinal properties of the plant in complete safety. Indeed, while many people mistake vaporizing for a vaguely different method of combusting the plant, it is absolutely not the case.

Cannabis starts vaporizing at 157 °C (314 °F), and on many devices, the temperature can be adjusted to the user’s preference. Temperatures much lower than the minimum temperature required for combustion can be selected on virtually all vaporizers.

The active ingredients contained in cannabis are released in the form of vapour. In one analysis, it was found that cannabis vapour contained anywhere between 36-61% of the THC contained in the vaped bud. Only three non-cannabinoid compounds were in the vapour, compared to 150 chemicals found in smoked cannabis (including 5 PAH’s, which are known carcinogens).

Mighty vaporizer with equipment against the white background

The “ideal” temperature at which cannabis should be vaporized varies from 50 to 250 °C (120 to 480 °F), depending on the cannabinoids and terpenes. Regardless, even in the case of vaporizers that do not allow the consumer to opt for their preferred settings, the temperature at which they operate should allow a satisfying experience, especially if they have been calibrated for medicinal use.

Medicinal cannabis users might prefer to vaporize cannabis because, over time and with frequent use, inhalation of the 150 odd chemicals from cannabis smoke may pose danger. Plus, certain demographics may benefit from cannabinoid inhalation but could be agitated by inhalation of combusted cannabis. For those, vaporizing may be preferred.

Different methods for different scenarios

This exploration has revealed that it is considerably healthier to vaporize cannabis than it is to smoke it. However, the choice really boils down to preference, as non-frequent or social users are not typically exposed to as much danger from smoking as regular users. Therefore, so much of the argument between vaporizing and smoking depends on the scenario in which it is being used.

·         For medicinal users, vaporizing is better than edibles

Vaporizing is one of the healthiest methods in existence to fully benefit from all the advantages of cannabis. Some medicinal users prefer vaporizing over ingesting it (i.e., via edibles), as the effects of vaporizing cannabinoids are practically immediate. Eating cannabis-based food is equally safe, but will require much more time to affect the consumer.

·         Vaporizing gives more effect from the same amount

Vaporizing does not destroy the active compounds of cannabis the same way as smoking. Fewer destroyed cannabinoids therefore means more efficiency and better value from the bud itself. Cannabinoids and terpenes are also much better preserved with vaporizing than with combustion.

·         Smoking is considered more social

When it comes to consuming cannabis in a social context and for recreational purposes, smoking is more often chosen. Somehow, people prefer to pass a joint than to pass around a vaporizer. There’s something traditional and ritualistic about rolling a joint and sharing it with friends. This probably contributes to why typically, recreational users opt for joints.

However, the social vaping culture continues to gain popularity as vaporizing itself continues to gain popularity. With more users realizing that it’s a healthier way to consume cannabis, more and more are inclined to vape, even recreational users.

Overall, it’s no surprise why medical consumers choose vaporizing over smoking. There are obvious health benefits for those who choose to vape, especially for those who use cannabis frequently. Plus, some people just don’t like smoking, and vaporizing is a great alternative for them too.

Even in the presence of many different kinds of cannabis consumables, there’s a tendency for recreational users to go down the path of smoking. It is, after all, the most traditional way to consume cannabis.

In the end, the reason for using cannabis dictates a lot in terms of which consumption method will be chosen, and so will preference. Different consumption methods fit into different scenarios, and in the modern age of cannabis, people have virtually unlimited choices when it comes to the mode of consumption.

If you need inspiration, feel free to browse our webshop which offers several models of vaporizers. You can also put questions to our shop staff in Amsterdam.

  • Disclaimer:
    Laws and regulations regarding cannabis use differ from country to country. Sensi Seeds therefore strongly advises you to check your local laws and regulations. Do not act in conflict with the law.


6 thoughts on “Smoking Vs. Vaporizing: New Ways to Inhale”

  1. Sylent Jay - Sensi Seeds

    Hello Swazi-X,

    Thanks for your comment.
    Again, not especially against your statements. You have to understand however that this is a catch-all article that aims to be the safest possible. Many people mix tobacco with cannabis when smoking. Many people suffer from respiratory problems (and could be medicating for this reason), many people simply cannot inhale smoke, etc. And mostly, many people don’t know about vaporising at all.
    Nevertheless, your comments are greatly appreciated. Anecdotal evidence is tremendously important! I suffer from asthma myself; I am sure you will see a logical path in this article that relates directly to this fact. And we hope it will help people in the same situation to find relatable advice. 🙂

    With kind regards.

  2. Sylent Jay,

    I was mistaken about CBD’s boiling point – it’s within the range you mentioned. I found a chart with the known cannabinoids, flavinoids, and terpenes – half of them vaporize at higher temps than the max you suggest of 180C, and even fewer vaporize at what you call the ideal temp of 170C. I’ll include the chart I found at the end of this reply.

    I don’t doubt vaporizers are effective for many people but my point is that vaporizing is not better across the board for everyone.

    You mention that “95% of this vapour consists of cannabinoids”. That sounds good but you’re getting less than half of the many active compounds available in the plant using the temps you suggest. Since most strains are so high in THC and low in CBD, that vapor is going to be mostly THC and like the complaints with Marinol suggest, THC is not always the most desired cannabinoid for medicating.

    You also say that “tar and other carcinogens are among the chemicals that are the most present in smoke resulting from combustion.” – a fact that is true but inconsequential according to the 2002 UCLA meta study by Dr. Tashkin I mentioned in my first comment. Cannabis smoke does not do long term damage to our lungs according to this study. The primary effect of cannabis smoke is as an expectorant – nothing more – so the “tar and other carcinogens” is a red herring and misleading for readers.

    You touch on the “dangers” of cannabis smoke further down in your piece – “not to mention the health issues related to inhaling tar and other toxic chemicals, especially on a long term basis.” There is no issue with cannabis smoke according to science, but the idea is effective to elicit an emotional response – just what we have too much of when discussing cannabis.

    1.Better than edibles.
    This is not true. Faster onset to be sure, but eating cannabis is more body-centric, longer lasting and generally more effective for pain.

    2. More effect from the same amount.
    Again – not true. Gram for gram, eating cannabis is much more effective than smoking or vaporizing – 1/2 gm in a brownie will go much further in effect than that in a vaporizer or pipe, plus you’re getting the full spectrum of beneficial compounds.

    Thanks for the opportunity to respond and for your response too, and for this article. Vaporizing is an excellent choice in some circumstances for some people, but as the “best” way to benefit from cannabis, I don’t think it measures up.

    Here is the vape chart I found online:

    Phytocannabinoids, their boiling points & properties

    1. ?-9-TetraHydroCannabinol (THC) Boiling point: 157°C / 314.6°F Properties: Euphoriant, Analgesic, Antiinflammatory, Antioxidant, Antiemetic

    2. Cannabidiol (CBD) Boiling point: 160-180°C / 320-356°F Properties: Anxiolytic, Analgesic, Antipsychotic, Antiinflammatory, Antioxidant, Antispasmodic

    3. Cannabinol (CBN) Boiling point: 185°C / 365°F Properties: Oxidation, breakdown, product, Sedative, Antibiotic

    4. Cannabichromene (CBC) Boiling point: 220°C / 428°F Properties: Antiinflammatory, Antibiotic, Antifungal

    5. ?-8-TetraHydroCannabinol (?-8-THC) Boiling point: 175-178°C / 347-352.4°F Properties: Resembles ?-9-THC, Less psychoactive, More stable Antiemetic

    6. TetraHydroCannabiVarin (THCV) Boiling point: 220°C / 428°F Properties: Analgesic, Euphoriant

    Terpenoid essential oils, their boiling points, & properties

    7. ?-myrcene Boiling point: 166-168°C / 330.8-334.4°F Properties: Analgesic. Antiinflammatory, Antibiotic, Antimutagenic

    8. ?-caryophyllene Boiling point: 119°C / 246.2°F Properties: Antiinflammatory, Cytoprotective (gastric mucosa), Antimalarial

    9. d-limonene Boiling point: 177°C / 350.6°F Properties: Cannabinoid agonist?, Immune potentiator, Antidepressant, Antimutagenic

    10. linalool Boiling point: 198°C / 388.4°F Properties: Sedative, Antidepressant, Anxiolytic, Immune potentiator

    11. pulegone Boiling point: 224°C / 435.2°F Properties: Memory booster?, AChE inhibitor, Sedative, Antipyretic

    12. 1,8-cineole (eucalyptol) Boiling point: 176°C / 348.8°F Properties: AChE inhibitor, Stimulant, Antibiotic, Antiviral, Antiinflammatory, Antinociceptive

    13. a-pinene Boiling point: 156°C / 312.8°F Properties: Antiinflammatory, Bronchodilator, Stimulant, Antibiotic, Antineoplastic, AChE inhibitor

    14. a-terpineol Boiling point: 217-218°C / 422.6-424.4°F Properties: Sedative, Antibiotic, AChE inhibitor, Antioxidant, Antimalarial

    15. terpineol-4-ol Boiling point: 209°C / 408.2°F Properties: AChE inhibitor. Antibiotic
    16. p-cymene Boiling point: 177°C / 350.6°F Properties: Antibiotic, Anticandidal, AChE inhibitor

    17. borneol Boiling point: 210°C / 410°F Properties: Antibiotic, ?-3-carene 0.004% 168 Antiinflammatory

    18. ?-3-carene Boiling point: 168°C / 334.4°F Properties: Antiinflammatory

    Flavonoid & Phytosterol components, their boiling points, & properties

    19. apigenin Boiling point: 178°C / 352.4°F Properties: Anxiolytic, Antiinflammatory, Estrogenic

    20. quercetin Boiling point: 250°C / 482°F Properties: Antioxidant, Antimutagenic, Antiviral, Antineoplastic

    21. cannflavin A Boiling point: 182°C / 359.6°F Properties: COX inhibitor, LO inhibitor

    22. ?-sitosterol Boiling point: 134°C / 273.2°F Properties: Antiinflammatory, 5-a-reductase, inhibitor

  3. Sylent Jay - Sensi Seeds

    Hello Sweet Leaf,

    Please note that this depends on the vaporiser used, how it is used, which strain is consumed, and for which condition. More details would help determine why your experience is negative!

    Thanks for your comment!

  4. Sylent Jay - Sensi Seeds

    Hello Swazi-X,

    Thanks for the detailed information.
    However, at no point did this article go against these facts.

    Regarding your personal use of the vaporiser especially in regards to CBD, vaporisation between 160 and 180 celcius degrees seems to be working for most patients in need of it. Feel free to add details on method and hardware used.

    Thank you for your comment!

  5. Wrong on almost all accounts.

    I’m surprised Sensi Seeds would allow such disinformation to grace their site. Let’s start at the top….

    1. Smoked cannabis does not cause or exacerbate COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) according to a UCLA meta-study done by the country’s leading Pulmonary Specialist done in 2001. Dr. Tashkin started as a drug warrior looking for the exact degree to which cannabis harms lungs, but as is a common story among truly honest scientists (I’m looking at you Dr. Grinspoon), once the data was discovered he changed his position.

    Smoked cannabis also does not cause lung cancer – another conclusion from the same study by Dr. Tashkin. He has been quoted as saying he would not be opposed to any of his patients smoking cannabis – quite a startling statement by such a prominent physician. The results of the study actually indicated a slight protective effect against developing lung cancer in long time cannabis users, which makes sense when taking this plant’s ability to actually cure cancer into account.

    2. Cannabis is not homogenous – there are 40+ different cannabinoids in the plant, most of which we have not studied at all. Each component vaporizes at widely different temperatures – in fact CBD only vaporizes at close to combustion temps. Setting the temperature of a vape to 170 degrees will get you a fraction of what the plant has to offer – mainly THC – while leaving much behind in what is discarded.

    Smoking destroys some of the cannabinoids at the tip near the “cherry” but the superheated smoke effectively vaporizes the cannabis behind the lit portion – especially in a joint, which truly is the best way to ingest it.

    Smoking is a nasty thing to do – smelly and ash-ridden – but, aside from the non-psychoactive fresh flowers used in smoothies (even less well known and incredibly healing according to many who’ve used it) smoking a joint is the most beneficial and efficient way to use cannabis when you need quick effect and accurate dose.

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    Sensi Seeds

    The Sensi Seeds Editorial team has been built throughout our more than 30 years of existence. Our writers and editors include botanists, medical and legal experts as well as renown activists the world over including Lester Grinspoon, Micha Knodt, Robert Connell Clarke, Maurice Veldman, Sebastian Maríncolo, James Burton and Seshata.
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    Sanjai Sinha

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