Vaping vs smoking weed: what’s better?

Vaping vs smoking weed: what’s better?
Max Sargent

Vaping technology is popular, and some have switched from smoking weed to vaping it exclusively. Is one really better than the other, though? What are the benefits and drawbacks of this new technology? How do smoking and vaping weed compare in terms of health? We'll explore all these questions and more as we go along.

Nowadays, vaping your cannabis is just as popular as smoking it. If you go to a music festival, a park, or even a cafe with outdoor seating, chances are you'll see someone vaporizing. Although the technology has been around for a while, vaping has become far more popular over the past few years. This is not only a sign of new technology but societal progression as well. As legal weed becomes more common, people increasingly need ways to enjoy it on the go with no hassle. For those people, vape pens have become a saving grace.

Not everyone is convinced, though, and many have stuck with the tried and true method of smoking. Which side is though, though? Smoking or vaping?There's a lot of misinformation from both sides, and we figure it's time for us to discuss the facts.


In case you haven't been outside since 2016, we'll quickly fill you in on what exactly vaping cannabis is. Essentially, it's when someone inhales vapor from a vaporizer, a device that heats up flower or concentrate to the point at which its constituents start to boil.


In contrast, we define actual smoking as any process where you burn cannabis with a lighter and inhale the smoke. That definition extends past cannabis, of course, but we'll just be talking about the electric lettuce today.

Difference between vaporizing and smoking


Some aspects of vaping are overhyped, sure. However, it wouldn't have gotten as popular as it has if there weren't any real benefits. As it turns out, there are even more upsides than people who vape might realise.


We're not saying it's flat-out healthy, but compared to traditional smoking, vaping is notably better for your health. The reasoning boils down to one distinct trait: lower temperatures. As we'll discuss later in detail, the process of lighting and smoking cannabis involves having very hot smoke in your lungs, along with inhaling some nasty chemicals that result from combustion. With vaping, however, the temperature of the vapor you're inhaling is far lower, and those combustion chemicals are never an issue.

Furthermore, while smoking can damage your skin over time, vaping may even be good for it! Instead of burning off most of the cannabinoids in your bud like smoking would, the low temperature of vaping preserves them for you to inhale. Some of these cannabinoids, in turn, have been observed to greatly benefit skin vitality, but more research is needed to confirm this.


Beyond that, vaping allows you to get the most out of your bud or concentrate. Since most of the cannabinoids don't get burnt off, you don't need to use nearly as much to get high.

Then, after you're done vaping, you can reuse your vaped flower to keep the party going. If you smoke often, you can save it up and use it to make a tasty cannabutter, which can lead to some fire edibles indeed. You don’t even need to decarb it in the oven, as it’s already been activated by the vaporizer! If you want to be more direct, you can even stick it in capsules and swallow them for an extra buzz.


As we mentioned before, lower temperatures are part of what makes vaping so enjoyable. Depending on what type of vape you have, the fun doesn't even stop there. If you've got a middle-range to upscale vape, you'll probably be able to control the temperature you're vaping at. If you want to change how smooth or intense your hits are, or if you want to tap into certain cannabinoids, this is a key feature.


Besides being better for you, vaping even tastes better than regular smoking. While the terpenes in your bud are mostly burnt when you smoke, they stay intact when you vape. You get a full sense of the flavour, and you can find out whether your weed actually tastes like chocolate. Going hand in hand with that, the resulting aroma is a lot less intense. In fact, especially with concentrate vapes, you barely smell anything at all, and the scent won't linger on your furniture or clothes.


Lastly, while it's a bit subjective, people who vape often report experiencing a clearer high than they do when smoking. This may be due to vaping sessions being generally calmer (no fire, no having to roll or pack bowls), but it may also be due to the lack of harsh chemicals involved. Or, it could be both factors combined, along with the others we've mentioned. Whichever it is, people seem to find more clarity when vaping.


We've been hyping it up so far, but vaping cannabis definitely has some drawbacks.


As it goes with many new technologies, one of the most annoying aspects is the upkeep. With glass, all you need is some rubbing alcohol and salt, if not just soap and hot water. Vapes, however, are not very water-friendly, and you'll need to follow some specific instructions to clean them. Along with that, you have to remember to keep the battery charged. Imagine how silly it feels to be with your friends and get the smoke session cut short by a battery. No one in the 90s was saying, "Sorry, we can't smoke anymore, I ran out of batteries". Then again, no one in the 90s had 30% THC bud to enjoy. Maybe the future isn't so bad.


There are cheap options for vape pens out there, but you get what you pay for. If you want a pen that'll last, you'll need to spend well over €100 for the device alone. That's generous, too, as many top-tier pens can go up to €200 and more. People spend that much on nice bongs, sure, but bongs tend to last a bit longer too.


The less tech-savvy amongst you might have trouble getting comfortable with the device. It's new technology, after all, and not every vape pen works the same. Some have multiple buttons, some don't. Some have temperature controls, some don't. Some have all sorts of wacky settings, while others are minimal. This problem goes away if you pay close enough attention to the instructions, but it's a hurdle for some nonetheless.


Outside of maintenance, perhaps the biggest inconvenience is you'll have to wait to hit your vape after you turn it on. Like the oven in your kitchen, it has to preheat before you get started. It won't take much longer than rolling a joint would, but it's still annoying.

Heat-up time


With all this talk of fancy technology, we think it's time to get back to basics. Lighting your weed up is the long-trusted approach, and it hasn't stuck around this long for no reason.


I mean, what is there to it? You grind up some weed, roll it up in some joint paper, maybe add a filter, and you're ready. If you've got a pipe, bubbler, or bong, all you have to do is grind it, put some in the bowl, light it up, and inhale. The required materials are far less expensive too, especially compared to the nicer vapes out there. It's accessible to almost anyone, and any able-bodied person can do it with little to no instruction. It's that simple. And in these crazy, complicated times, some simplicity is all we need.


For some, the process of grinding, rolling, and packing can feel like inconveniences. For many others, though, they're special parts of the ritual of smoking. The process of bringing it all together can be just as enjoyable as actually smoking. OK, maybe not that enjoyable, but part of the experience nonetheless. When you just take your vape out and start inhaling, the moment can lose a feeling of importance.


This one isn't grounded in anything actually happening, but regardless, some smokers report a stronger effect when smoking than when vaping. What's the science behind that, you wonder? There is none, but people still say it and supposedly feel it, so you might as well try it for yourself. The placebo effect is real, and is likely the main force behind this claim.


While it is indeed tried and true, smoking comes with a fair share of issues.


As we discussed earlier in this article, the act of lighting up your weed and inhaling the fumes creates some problems for your lungs. First off, you're inhaling the fumes of something you basically lit on fire. In turn, the process creates tar and carbon monoxide, both of which end up in your lungs. No, it's not as bad as smoking cigarettes, but it's closer to that than you'd think. Real damage can occur over the years, and lung cancer is a legitimate risk.


When you light up weed, it's harder to control dosing. If you breathe in just a bit deeper, your hit ends up that much bigger. It won't make much difference with one hit, but you could end up way higher than you want to be if you're not careful. That, coupled with the fact that it's hard to determine how fast or slow your weed will burn, makes smoking an unpredictable experience.


Some would have you think smoking gets you higher than vaping. The evidence, however, points in the other direction. Since the temperatures are so high when you smoke, you only end up inhaling 25% of the present cannabinoids. Vaping, in contrast, preserves up to 95%. It's not all THC being cut out, but the figures are hard to ignore.


Lastly, when weed reaches those high temperatures, the terpenes are mostly wiped out. Those, as you might know, are the source of flavour in cannabis. With most of them destroyed, the flavour of smoked cannabis can end up very one-note or undetectable after the first hit.


If we're talking about health and the actual act of smoking, vaping is the clear winner. However, the simplicity and accessibility of smoking, along with the importance of the old-school ritual, can't be ignored. It comes down to what you can afford and how you feel about the process. If you can afford one, though, we always recommend getting a vape for those situations where you can't smoke.

Max Sargent
Max Sargent

Max has been writing about cannabis and psychedelics for several years now. With a strong belief that an open, honest attitude toward drugs and drug policy can improve the lives of many, he seeks to offer insightful and developed opinions on the subject.