Big or small hits: which are better for smoking weed?

Big or small hits: which are better for smoking weed?
Steven Voser

While getting high is far from complicated, there are a few tips, tricks, and techniques that go beyond big or small hits that you can employ to make the experience as enjoyable, and potent, as possible.

Big or small hits? That is a question many cannabis users have asked. You have probably heard this myth: take as big a hit as possible and hold it in for as long as possible. Right? Puff, hold, hack, repeat, and then pass.

Turns out, this is one of the many pieces of stoner lore that is complete and utter bunk. Legalisation has managed to overturn quite a few stoner myths. And this is one of the most notable.

Ultimately, of course, the idea is to get as much bang for your buck as you can, so stoners conceived the theory that the size of the hit—and the length of time you hold it in—is directly related to its efficacy.

But is there any truth to this concept?


In short: Taking giant hits or holding them in for a long period has no impact on the “effectiveness” of your weed. Let’s take a look at the actual mechanics behind how cannabinoids in smoke or vapor are absorbed.

• Cannabinoid absorption is almost instantaneous

Human lungs contain tiny air sacs called alveoli. When you inhale cannabis smoke, the alveoli immediately grab oxygen and other chemical compounds from the smoke, including cannabinoids like THC, CBD, and CBN. These are then transferred to the human bloodstream. This is how you get "high". Because the lungs absorb any available THC instantly, there is no delay in compound transfer.

• Inefficient transfer

Lungs, even when healthy, can only absorb about 5% of the oxygen and other compounds they encounter on a single inhale/exhale cycle. This means that no matter how much smoke you manage to inhale, or how long you manage to hold it in, there is a limited amount of cannabis your body can intake during a single inhale/exhale cycle.

• You don’t get a stronger high—it’s oxygen deprivation

Some people still swear by this technique, claiming that holding your cannabis smoke (and thus your breath) really does get you "higher". Actually, that is also not true. The lightheadedness and dizzy feeling you might experience following this is not related to cannabis, but oxygen deprivation. This is, of course, very unhealthy. Holding your spliff or vape inhale for as long as possible simply allows contaminants in the smoke more time to adhere to your lungs. Not ideal.

According to the limited studies on the topic, breath hold duration has no influence on the amount of cannabis that the lungs absorb.


Neither. Deep, steady hits, rather than massive or tiny ones, are the best way to get the most out of your smoke. Breathe in the smoke slowly for several seconds, then exhale naturally after you’ve filled up your lungs. This way, you save your lungs from damage while optimising the stream of cannabinoids flowing in.


Getting high isn't rocket science, but if the effect you feel is not quite what you want, don't blame the bong or vaporizer. Try experimenting with different forms of cannabis!

This can mean a few different things: to start, you could try to source high-THC strains of cannabis that will get you more stoned in just a couple of hits. You can also try edibles, although the high from these is often experienced as different from a smoking high. A good middle-ground could be to dab concentrates, which are extremely potent forms of cannabis with a high more similar to vaping and smoking.


Many people shy away from bongs in fear of, or following, a bad experience. A harsh hit or two can send you to the moon, and can even cause some people to throw up. It’s simply a matter of too much (or too big) too soon.

Bongs work in the following way: the water allows large amounts of smoke to fill up the chamber until the user inhales. The smoke is then channelled directly into the lungs through the mouth. To avoid harsh hits while maximising your high, there are some accessories and tips you can keep in mind.

• Keep your bong clean!

Whether you’re taking huge hits or tiny ones, a dirty bong means a dirty hit. For those making the mistake of holding in their smoke, little do they know that they’re not receiving more cannabinoids, but they _are_ allowing other nasties to latch onto the lungs. Regularly clean your bong before even thinking about outfitting it with cool, expensive accessories.

That said, one accessory that can actually help prevent your bong from getting dirty is an ash catcher. This keeps ash from falling into the bong, and it often comes with its own percolator for smoother hits.

• Percolators

Speaking of, there are many perks to percs in general. These filters kind of look like bent up straws with holes in them, located in the chamber of the bong. These holes serve as points of diffusion that make for a cleaner and more enjoyable smoke. You’ll be able to take nice, deep hits this way.

• Lighter alternatives

You can optimise the flavour and burn of your weed using various lighter alternatives. Hemp wick allows you to light your weed with weed, making for a more natural flavour and overall experience. It also allows your hit to burn evenly without being scorched.

If you want to use a lighter but also want to eliminate butane, use an electric/plasma lighter. Some models use metal wires while others use a ceramic heating element to provide the smoothest smoke possible.

• Ice catchers

Ice catchers are a great way to achieve a silky smooth smoke. These are small indents in the chamber of a bong (not all of them have this) where you can conveniently drop in a few cubes. Adding ice cools the smoke before reaching your lungs, making for an even smoother and more sensational experience. You can also use frozen glycerine (which lasts longer than ice).



As with bongs, you can also enhance your joint hits significantly by using just a few simple techniques.

• Unbleached rolling papers

Cannabis connoisseurs always use unbleached rolling papers. This offers a much cleaner, more even burning experience. If you’re going to smoke paper, why not go a more natural route?

• Use a grinder

Grinding your weed to an even consistency is essential to achieving a slow, consistent burn. Larger pieces of bud take longer to burn. Just don't under- or over-grind your weed. Too fine a grind will prevent proper airflow; a loose grind will beget an uneven burn and waste weed.

• Roll it properly

Rolling joints is an art form. Most people have their own tricks of the trade. However, a great joint is one that is neither too tight nor too loose. A joint that is too tight will force users to struggle for a nice draw. Roll a joint that is too loose, though, and it will burn down quickly and deliver meagre draws.


If bongs and joints do not hit the spot, there are other alternatives, including vaporizers! While this kind of inhalation method takes a little getting used to, many people have made the switch, or go back and forth between vaping and smoking. Vapes come in all sizes, from travel to desktop sizes. They also tend to hide the cannabis odour more.

That said, however you choose to inhale your weed, you don’t need to hold in your hits or take massive rips to achieve that perfect high. Follow our tips above and you’ll be on your way to stoner paradise!

Steven Voser
Steven Voser

Steven is a long-time veteran of cannabis journalism, having delved into every aspect of the subject. His particular interests lie in cannabis culture, the emerging science of cannabis, and how it is shaping the legal landscape across the globe.