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Chemical Differences Between Vaping and Smoking Cannabis

vape pen oil cartridge and ground cannabis flower

Vaping marijuana has certainly become increasingly popular over the past few years, but is the hype backed up by facts? While the long-term effects of vaping are still unknown, there are some key differences in how vaping and smoking affect the body. Research has found that, though cannabis does contain some carcinogenic chemicals, marijuana smoke doesn’t have the same effect on lung cancer or emphysema as tobacco smoke, but the research remains ongoing.

There are two primary forms of vaping: vaping cannabis oil (like electronic cigarettes) or vaping flower (like with a volcano, Pax, or Hot Box). The director of compliance at MMLG, Dr. Juli Crockett, discussed the difficulty in doing research and performing tests to determine the various health effects of vaping and smoking marijuana due to its placement as a Schedule 1 drug. “So much of the body of evidence for effects is anecdotal and based on personal experience, and these testimonials are in no small part what has been pushing legislation forward in expanding access to patients and adult-use consumers, alike.”

Despite the similarities between smoking and vaping with the hallucinatory effects, there are several differences in how the method you choose will affect your body. While there are many differences between smoking and vaping in how they affect you, we’re going to focus on the most prevalent.

Vapor is Lighter and Cooler than Smoke

One of the favored rumors involving vaping is that the “smoke” and smell dissipate quickly; this is true. Vapor isn’t as thick, dense, or harsh as smoke. It won’t affect your lungs as negatively. There are a number of factors at play for the risk of smoking. First off, if you’re smoking a joint or blunt, not only are you burning and inhaling the cannabis, all of the other chemicals contained within it, and burning and inhaling the paper in which the joint or blunt are wrapped. If you’re smoking in a bowl, but using a lighter, you’re also introducing some butane into your system.

Emma Chasen, a cannabis educator, said: “Combustion occurs between 600-900 degrees Celsius whereas vape pens typically operate between 160 and 230 degrees Celsius. Combustion produces toxic byproducts that lead to respiratory symptoms such as bronchitis. Vaporizing does not produce such toxic byproducts and therefore leads to less respiratory symptoms.”

Prolonged Smoking is More Detrimental and Damaging than Prolonged Vaping

Because of the combustion, high heat, and external chemicals being introduced, prolonged smoking can be far more damaging and irritating to the respiratory system than vaping. While there isn’t a lot of research to support the thought that prolonged vaping doesn’t cause damage to the respiratory system, it has been determined that it is a better alternative to smoking.

Smoking Provides a Different Experience

When you smoke weed, you inhale more of the secondary compounds found in cannabis than when you vape weed or oil. This could lead to a more intense psychoactive experience or more effective symptom relief. The pens, containing concentrated marijuana oil, only contain cannabis and its cannabinoids, not allowing you the full range that flower does.

You Waste Less Product When You Vape

According to Chasen, “When smoking, 30 to 50 percent of cannabis may be lost due to sidestream smoke. Very little product is lost when it comes to vaporizing because the product is heated in an enclosed chamber.” Frequently, the burned cannabis can continue to burn when no one is hitting it, as well as the smoke escaping, causing the product to burn up too quickly.

With the increased interest in vaping marijuana products, the effect of vaping on the body is becoming an important subject of research. While little is known about the long-term effects of vaping due to the federal restriction on marijuana, it is still considered to be a safer alternative to smoking. We hope that, through this article, you gained a better understanding of the differences between these two ways of consuming marijuana and can make a more informed decision on which method is better for you.

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