Vaping vs. smoking weed: What's the difference? (2023)

Today, smoking and vaping are among the most common methods of consuming cannabis. Whether you're a seasoned cannabis consumer or brand new to the world of weed, it's important to understand the differences between smoking a joint and puffing on a vape pen, as they can distinctly influence both your high and your health.

Read on to learn more about the health, financial, and lifestyle considerations for vaping vs. smoking cannabis.

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Photo by: Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

What is smoking?

Puff, puff, pass! For as long as human beings have been enjoying cannabis, smoking has been among the most (if not the most)common methods of consumption. When you smoke cannabis flower, you inhale smoke from the combusted flower into your lungs and the cannabinoids therein quickly make their way into your bloodstream. Smoking cannabis immediately initiates a wide range of physical and psychological effects, depending on thestrain's cannabinoidandterpene content. Effects generally last around two to three hours.

While smoking weed will undoubtedly create an intoxicated feeling or “high," combustion actuallydestroys a good portion of the strain's cannabinoid content. This means that valuable cannabinoids and terpenes are inevitably wasted.

Smoking continues to be widely popular because it is enjoyable, convenient, shareable, portable, and contributes to the overall sensory experience of cannabis. According to a study published in JAMA in 2019, 77% of medical cannabis patients reportedsmoking as their favorite way to consume cannabis.

What is vaping?

Vaporizing, or vaping, has become a very popular alternative to smoking cannabis. Avape refers to a vaporizeror similar device that heats cannabis flower or a cannabis concentrate, transforming it into a vapor that can be inhaled.

Vaping heats cannabis without combusting it, meaning that when you inhale it, you're inhaling cannabinoid and terpene-rich vapor, as opposed to smoke. Bothcannabis flowerandconcentrates can be vaped.

Vaporization is meant to occur just below the temperature of combustion. Despite the need for more research, vaping lab-tested, verified cannabis is typically accepted as a healthier and stronger alternative to smoking. Vaping is also recommended because it preserves the cannabis strain's flavors and activates precious cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids that would otherwise burn off in combustion.

According to some studies and anecdotal evidence, vaping can produce a stronger high because of the higher concentration of potent cannabinoids as well asthe entourage effect that occurs when you consume a wider array of cannabinoids. A study conducted at Johns Hopkins and published in JAMA Network Open in 2018 suggests thatvaping cannabis delivers stronger psychoactive effectsto infrequent consumers more quickly than smoking it.

And, while everybodyexperiences cannabis differently, anecdotal evidence suggests that the psychoactive effects of vaping do feel somewhat different than the effects of smoking. Vaping cannabis may allow for a more controlled method of inhalation compared to smoking, which can help contribute to a cleaner-feeling high. Consumers canadjust the temperatureat which the flower or concentrate is inhaled, which can impact the potential therapeutic effects. Since essential compounds don't burn away as they do with combustion, consumers are able to taste the nuanced flavor of the strain they're inhaling, which may elevate the experience.

How does smoking impact my health?

It is important to be mindful of thehealth risks of combustionif you choose to smoke cannabis. Inhaling smoke of any kind isharmful to the lungs over time.

Smoking releases tar and carcinogens into the lungs and over the long term, smoking is associated with pulmonary inflammation, chronic respiratory illnesses, and other health concerns.

Studies indicate that cannabis smoke contains many ofthe same carcinogens and chemicalsas tobacco smoke. However,cannabis and tobacco smoke are not equally carcinogenic. Despite the health risks cannabis smoke does impose, an established causal link between inhaling it and developing cancer has not yet been found.

Additionally, there arehealth risks that come along with smoking both paperand thetobacco productssome cannabis consumers use to roll joints or spliffs with, including exposure to heavy metals and pesticides. When you burn rolling papers, hemp leaves, and lighter fluid chemicals, it releases harmful compounds as well. Glass pipes and bongs can help negate these issues, but if you choose to smoke using glass pieces, be sure to clean your glass regularly to avoid tar buildup and other issues.

Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

Is vaping healthier than smoking?

Unfortunately, the answer is not as simple as one might think. It is important to understand that while the science is promising, vaping is not completely free of risk.

When cannabis is vaporized, it is generally accepted as beingeasier on the lungs. Research suggests that those who vape cannabisexperience decreased respiratory symptomscompared to those who smoke, even when the amount of cannabis consumed increases. A study conducted by NORML and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies in 2001 also suggests thatvaping may suppress cancer-causing compoundsthat would otherwise be produced by cannabis smoke.

According to cannabis medicine expert Dr. Ethan Russo, vaping dried cannabis flower appears to be associated withsignificantly fewer health riskswhen compared to smoking. Vaping doesn't produce toxic secondhand smoke like smoking does, either.

While vaping dried cannabis flower appears healthier than smoking, that doesn't mean all vaping is harmless. Some vape products containthinning agents, flavoring agents, and other additives, which, when broken down,can become carcinogenic. They can alsoexpose consumers to toxic metalsandultrafine particlesthat can irritate the lungs.Terpenes added to concentratesare also a potential concern.

It is important to note thatthe 2019 vaping crisiswas a result of illicit and oftentainted THC cartridgesbeing sold to unsuspecting consumers. Illicit THC cartridges are strongly correlated with a type of lung disease referred to as EVALI, according to the CDC, likely due tothe cutting agent vitamin E acetate.

To decrease the risk of vaping harmful additives, it's imperative to purchase products from reputable sources that provide product testing data.Avoid purchasing illicit vape productsand refrain from altering existing ones. Be mindful that purchasing vape products from a licensed dispensary is the safest option, but is not devoid of risk.

The truth is, the science behind vaping cannabis vs. smoking it remainsunknown and often misrepresentedfor many people. More research is needed to uncover the long-term health risks of both.

Vaping vs. smoking: Lifestyle considerations

Smoking weed can be done solo or shared as a meaningful way to socialize. Often, preparing the weed for ingestion is part of the fun, ritualistic, and social aspects of smoking it.

Vaping, on the other hand, provides a more discreet experience than smoking, as it is easy to conceal and doesn't smell in the same way burning flower does. Cannabis smoke produces a distinctive odor that lingers.

Consumers have the option to vape both dried cannabis flower and cannabis concentrates,utilizing a wide range of vaporizers. Devices from handheld to tabletop, packable to disposable, e-cigarettes to volcanoes, and more offer unparalleled versatility and convenience. To vape cannabis, flower or oil is typically packed or pre-filled into a small chamber or cartridge, which is then heated using a battery and the vapor inhaled via a mouthpiece. To smoke cannabis, you typically grind the dried flower and pack it into the bowl of a pipe, bong, or bubbler before lighting it and inhaling the smoke through the mouthpiece.

Both vaping and smoking offer a range of approaches and price points to fit your lifestyle.

Bottom line

So, when it comes down to vaping vs. cannabis, is one better than the other?

At the end of the day, better is subjective. Both vaping and smoking carry risks as well as unique potential benefits and experiences. Whether you are puff, puff, passing the joint or the vape is ultimately up to your priorities and preferences.

Remember that with any consumption method, it is important to start low and go slow to find what dosage works best for you.


What's the difference between weed and Vapes? ›

Vaping and smoking both involve inhaling, but the main difference is that vaping involves heating a cannabis-based oil with a device. At the same time, smoking typically means inhaling the smoke from cannabis flower rolled into a joint or cigarette.

Is A vape stronger than weed? ›

Vaping cannabis produces stronger effects than smoking cannabis for infrequent users [Press release]. Legal medical marijuana states and DC.

Is a vape high better than a flower high? ›

When comparing vapes and flower, the cannabis vapes will produce a stronger high. Cannabis vapes typically contain around three times more cannabinoids than flower, resulting in a much more powerful high with less product consumed.

Is it better to smoke or vape? ›

1: Vaping is less harmful than smoking, but it's still not safe. E-cigarettes heat nicotine (extracted from tobacco), flavorings and other chemicals to create an aerosol that you inhale. Regular tobacco cigarettes contain 7,000 chemicals, many of which are toxic.

Is vaping better than smoking for you? ›

Vaping exposes users to fewer toxins and at lower levels than smoking cigarettes. Switching to vaping significantly reduces your exposure to toxins that can cause cancer, lung disease, and diseases of the heart and circulation like heart attack and stroke.

How long does it take for your lungs to heal from vaping? ›

Lung function starts to improve 2 weeks to 3 months after quitting. From 1–12 months after quitting, symptoms such as coughing and breathing problems should improve as lung structures heal. If people wish to quit vaping, they can speak with a healthcare professional.

What is the side effects of vaping? ›

What are the side effects of vaping?
  • Coughing.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Eye irritation.
  • Headaches.
  • Dry and irritated mouth and throat.
  • Nausea.
Aug 22, 2022

Does a vape high feel different? ›

While some people will say that it feels better on the lungs if they use a vaporizer instead of smoking, most users agree that vaping is a more mild experience with different levels of high based on the quality of vaporizer used and other factors.

What are the different types of vape Marijuanas? ›

Types of vape cartridge delivery systems
  • 510 thread. Named for the threading at the bottom of the cartridge, they are the most common and universal style. ...
  • Disposable pens. ...
  • Device-specific (proprietary carts) ...
  • Distillate. ...
  • Live resin. ...
  • Live rosin. ...
  • Full-spectrum extract. ...
  • CBD oil.
Aug 29, 2022

Is a dab better than a vape high? ›

The device's vaporization material is the main difference between dab and vape pens. Vape pens vaporize oil cartridges or dry cannabis flower heated at lower temperatures, and dab pens vaporize cannabis concentrates heated at higher temperatures and deliver a more potent high.

Can your lungs heal from vaping? ›

Breathing in the harmful chemicals from vaping products can cause irreversible (cannot be cured) lung damage, lung disease and, in some cases, death. Some chemicals in vaping products can also cause cardiovascular disease and biological changes that are associated with cancer development.

Why do I vape more than I smoked? ›

Nicotine Content in E-Liquids. One reason you could be vaping more than you smoked is because you aren't using the best nicotine strength for your preferences. E-liquids come in a variety of different strengths and go up to 20 mg/ml in the UK.

Is there a healthy vape? ›

The reality of any vaping device, whether marketed as a “healthy” option or not, is that they are unsafe to use. The lack of research combined with a lack of federal regulation means that there is simply no evidence suggesting “healthy vapes” offer any benefit or a healthy alternative to nicotine-based devices.

What happens when you stop vaping? ›

Stopping vaping can help you avoid serious health risks, such as cardiovascular disease, lung damage, and respiratory problems. By quitting vaping, you'll be able to reduce your chances of having a heart attack and other heart-related issues.

How many puffs of a vape is equal to a cigarette? ›

A smoker typically puffs on a cigarette around 10-15 times before putting it out, so let's be conservative and estimate that puffing on a vape 15 times is approximately equal to smoking one cigarette. If that's the case, then a disposable vape that delivers 600 puffs is equal to about two packs of cigarettes.

Is vape bad for your teeth? ›

Vaping has a direct effect on oral health.

Exposure to e-cigarette aerosol can lead to more bacteria in the mouth, which is associated with tooth decay, cavities, and gum diseases. It can also cause dry mouth, inflamed gums, and other issues.

What are the benefits of vaping? ›

Benefits of vaping

Vaping can help some people quit smoking. Vaping is usually cheaper than smoking. Vaping is not harmless, but it is much less harmful than smoking. Vaping is less harmful to those around you than smoking, as there's no current evidence that second-hand vapour is dangerous to others.

What happens when you quit smoking and start vaping? ›

What happens when you switch from smoking to vaping? As most smoking-related health issues are caused by tobacco, the transition to vaping immediately stops ex-smokers from inhaling harmful chemicals and toxins such as carbon monoxide, tar, benzene, arsenic and formaldehyde.

How do you switch from smoking to vaping? ›

Take your time. Some smokers find it hard to switch instantly from smoking traditional cigarettes to vaping e-cigarettes, so it can be helpful to gradually make the transition. You might try swapping out smoking for e-cigarettes once or a few times a day to slowly quit. This is sometimes referred to as 'dual use'.

What are 3 signs of a vaping addiction? ›

Symptoms of Vaping Addiction
  • A strong, almost irresistible urge to vape.
  • Continuing to vape even if you think that it's harmful to you.
  • Irritability when you can't vape.
  • Intrusive thoughts about vaping.
  • Vaping behavior that causes problems with family, friends, school, or work.
  • The inability to stop vaping even when you try.
Jun 30, 2022

Does popcorn lung go away? ›

Can popcorn lung fix itself? The short answer to this is no. Bronchiolitis obliterans is irreversible. Once the damage happens, you can't fix it.

How much vaping is too much in one day? ›

There is no real "normal," and the puffs per day don't matter. The acceptable daily intake for nicotine varies based on several modes of life and biological factors. Since the system to calculate nicotine intake per puff isn't an exact science, it's better to satisfy your needs.

What is a good substitute for vaping? ›

Your local drug store stocks several nicotine replacement products over the counter. These include patches, lozenges and gum. Other products, like pills, inhalers and nasal sprays, need a doctor's prescription.

Which vapes are FDA approved? ›

Night mode: Recently, the first disposable vape device passed the PMTA approval process. The NJOY Daily Rich Tobacco and the NJOY Daily Extra Rich Tobacco disposable vapes have now both been approved for sale.

How many hits of a vape is healthy? ›

According to a study, 85% of vapers take around 140 puffs per day whereas the remaining 15% take more than 300 puffs daily. If you are new to vaping, then you should limit your daily intake to 60 to 80 puffs per day.

What is the biggest side effect of vaping? ›

The biggest side effect of vaping nicotine is developing a nicotine addiction. Other side effects of nicotine include nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. High doses of nicotine may cause tachycardia, high blood pressure, seizures, coma and death.

Is indica or sativa better? ›

The answer ultimately comes down to personal preference and what you hope to achieve by using cannabis. If you're looking for a more energizing and uplifting effect, sativa is probably the better choice. If you're looking for a more relaxing and sedating effect, indica is probably the better choice.

What carts get you the highest? ›

5 Best THC Cartridges In 2023
  • Exhale Wellness – Overall Best THC Cartridges On The Market.
  • BudPop – Strongest Delta 8 THC Cartridges.
  • Hollyweed CBD – Highly Potent Delta 8 THC Vape Pens.
  • Diamond CBD – Premium Quality Marijuana Vape Pen.
  • 3Chi – Affordable THC Carts & Delta 8 Vape Pen.
Apr 5, 2023

Why doesn't my vape get me high? ›

It's possible your body has become more used to the effects of cannabis, which is called tolerance. Cannabis tolerance happens when your body becomes used to a substance and then you need more of it to get the same effect. Generally, it could be the potency of what's in the cartridge. Most carts average 80mgs of THC.

Does dabbing count as vaping? ›

Both dabbing and vaping are in fact forms of vaporization, but the experience of each is quite distinct. The major distinction lies in the material consumed, which affects flavour, the quality of the high, and more.

How do you clean your lungs after vaping? ›

Lung Cleansing Techniques
  1. Do Steam Therapy. Breathe in, breathe out. ...
  2. Drink Green Tea. Cleaning your lungs may be as simple as sipping hot tea—green tea, specifically. ...
  3. Invest in an Air Purifier. One way to clean your lungs is to first clean the air you breathe. ...
  4. Exercise Regularly. ...
  5. Eat Anti-Inflammatory Foods.

Can one puff of vape harm you? ›

The lung damage he has seen in patients is the equivalent to someone smoking cigarettes for decades. "It literally can kill you the first time you try it," he says.

What causes popcorn lung? ›

Popcorn lung (bronchiolitis obliterans) is an uncommon type of lung disease, but it is not cancer. It's caused by a build-up of scar tissue in the lungs, which blocks the flow of air. A possible link has been suggested between the disease and a chemical called diacetyl.

How hard is it to quit vaping? ›

Quitting vaping can be difficult because of nicotine addiction, and one of the biggest hurdles is managing nicotine withdrawal. The first day may be the most difficult. If you can set a routine and follow it for the rest of your effort to quit, you may see a greater chance of success.

What happens 24 hours after quitting vaping? ›

Most people should expect to experience some of the following vaping withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, mood swings, anxiety or irritability, to start within about 24 hours of the last vape. It's important to be mentally prepared to accept vaping withdrawal symptoms and know they'll pass in a short time.

What is the hardest day of quitting vaping? ›

The withdrawal timeline is also different for everyone, but according to a 2015 study, symptoms like these set in between 4 and 24 hours after the last use, peak on day 3, and typically subside during the following 3-4 weeks.

Is it healthier to vape flower or concentrate? ›

Along with these benefits, vaporizers also reduce carcinogen intake, lung damage, signs of aging and are safe to use indoors. Whether you're vaping concentrates or dry herbs, vaporizing is a healthier way to get the high you're looking for.

What does vaping do? ›

They breathe in addictive nicotine and dozens of dangerous chemicals. Research suggests that vaping may affect the way cells in the respiratory tract (nose, throat and lungs) react to germs and may increase the chance of disease and infection from bacterial and virus, like the virus that causes COVID-19.

Is dabbing better than vaping flower? ›

Dabs may be ideal for users looking for strong, immediate, and long-lasting relief. Flower, on the other hand, provides consumers with an equally fast onset of effects. Flower may not have as high a THC concentration as dabs, but it can be just enough to give users a mild buzz.

Is it better to vape or smoke dry herb? ›

Vaping is the healthier alternative

Most studies that compare vaporizing to smoking focus on the health risks of smoking cigarettes and tobacco instead of dry herbs. Those studies are pretty clear - the possibility for lung diseases like bronchitis, and other damage is greatly reduced by vaporizing instead of smoking.

What is the difference between flower and oil vaping? ›

Flower vs oil - The most obvious difference between dry herb vs oil vape devices, is that one vaporizes cannabis flower and the other vaporizes cannabis oil or extracts. The one that works best for you, will depend on your personal preference, and tolerance for potency.

Why is vaping worse than smoking? ›

A large observational study found that compared to non-smokers, e-cigarette users were 34% more likely to have a heart attack, 25% more likely to develop coronary artery disease and 55% more likely to suffer from depression or anxiety.

What are 3 benefits of vaping? ›

Benefits of vaping

Vaping can help some people quit smoking. Vaping is usually cheaper than smoking. Vaping is not harmless, but it is much less harmful than smoking. Vaping is less harmful to those around you than smoking, as there's no current evidence that second-hand vapour is dangerous to others.

What happens when you stop smoking and start vaping? ›

There is a succession of stages representing the detoxification of your lungs as you quit smoking and start vaping. Once you've stopped smoking for good and switched to vaping, you'll most likely also notice other positive side effects – like your sense of taste and smell improving.


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