The popularity of cannabis has soared over the last few years as recreational use has become legalized in more and more places. In the U.S. alone, over the last decade, recreational use of cannabis has become legal in 20 U.S. states. Just in the last five years 12 states in the U.S. have legalized the recreational use of cannabis. Some athletes even use medicinal cannabis to improve their sports performance. With the cannabis industry growing at such a rapid pace and becoming a multibillion dollar industry, many people who are interested in trying cannabis have been left unsure what the best way to consume cannabis is. For those who are uninterested in trying cannabis edibles two other options remain: smoking and vaping. Most people are well aware of the negative health effects associated with smoking and vaping nicotine and want to know both if those negative health effects apply to smoking or vaping cannabis and of the two options, which is healthier.
The process of smoking cannabis usually involves using a pipe, bong, or rolling papers. For most people, the most convenient and portable way to smoke is by making joints using rolling paper. But, what are the health effects of consuming cannabis this way? To start, inhaling any kind of smoke has negative health effects and cannabis smoke is no different. In order to get the best effects, many cannabis smokers hold the smoke in their lungs for an extended period of time and as a result, most negative health effects associated with smoking cannabis are respiratory related issues. These health issues include: chronic bronchitis, cough, excessive mucus production, possible increased risk of infection in immunocompromised people, possible increased risk of lower respiratory tract infections, weakened immune system, and wheezing. So while it is clear that smoking cannabis does have negative health effects, it is also important to point out that all these health effects are increased for chronic smokers and minimized for those who only smoke cannabis in moderation.
Unlike smoking cannabis which involves smoking dried plant parts, vaping cannabis usually involves heating concentrated cannabis extracts and can therefore often be more potent. From a health perspective, many of the health effects of vaping cannabis are unknown and it is therefore very difficult to judge whether or not it is more harmful than smoking cannabis. However, researchers have suggested that vaping THC oil appears to have very negative long term effects on the lungs. This is because THC contains vitamin E acetate which when inhaled has potentially fatal effects on the lungs. In 2019 it was reported that over 2,500 suffered lung injuries from inhaling vitamin E acetate with 47 people suffering fatal lung injuries. This led the CDC to recommend that people avoid all vape products that include THC because of the fear that they included vitamin E acetate. However, people still opt for vaping cannabis because they believe it protects them from many of the harmful toxins that you are exposed to when burning cannabis as opposed to heating and vaporizing it. Ultimately, it is clear that the long term health effects of vaping weed are unclear and therefore it is hard to come to a definitive conclusion as to whether smoking or vaping is more harmful.
While the unknowns around vaping cannabis make it very hard to conclude whether smoking or vaping is healthier, it is our opinion that smoking is currently the better of the two options. While this opinion is subject to change as more information around vaping cannabis comes to light, given what we currently know, it seems like smoking is the better option for a few reasons. To start, the risks of smoking cannabis are known risks and unlike vaping cannabis, when it comes to smoking cannabis you know what risks you are accepting. Additionally, the health risks that exist when smoking cannabis are mostly associated with chronic smoking rather than smoking in moderation. While smoking any amount can be dangerous, the risks of severe health issues are greatly minimized by smoking in moderation. Lastly, the accessibility of vaping can lead to overuse and can create a dangerous habit. Vaping is much more accessible than smoking because for most vapes all that is required by the user is simply inhaling or pressing a button and the vape does the rest. Meanwhile, smoking requires burning the weed and also creates a much more potent smell than vaping. While this accessibility may seem like a plus, it also has its pitfalls and could lead to overuse because of how easy it is to vape. While hopefully more information will come to light on the risks of vaping weed, we currently argue that if you’re choosing between smoking or vaping cannabis, smoking is the better option.