Vaping Weed: How Safe Is It?

(Photo: jonnwilliams/Flickr)

(Photo: jonnwilliams/Flickr)

Most experts agree that vaporizing is better for you than smoking.

The upward trend of vaporizing marijuana has many users touting its benefits when compared to other methods of consumption such as bongs, joints or pipes.

Health crazes come and go, but should vaping stay? Is vaporizing actually safe? We asked the experts to get the real answer.

Vaping vs. Smoking

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Vaporizing or ‘vaping’ involves placing raw cannabis or THC oil in a pen or plug-in device.

The cannabis or oil is then heated to a temperature cooler than the point of combustion and turns the product into a vapor. This means the user doesn’t inhale smoke, but vapor instead.

“Anything that lights the plant on fire creates respiratory irritants,” explains Dr. Mitch Earleywine, a professor and researcher at the State University of New York at Albany.

So by using a vaporizer, consumers are able to avoid inhaling the harmful by-products usually found in cannabis smoke.

Studies on Vaporizing Marijuana

While vaporizers have risen in popularity in recent years, their effects have not yet been investigated by large-scale studies.

Of the few small studies that exist on vaporizing was a study published by Dr. Earleywine in 2007.

The results suggested that cannabis can be safer when a vaporizer is used — and that people who consume cannabis by other methods, such as pipes or joints, may decrease their respiratory symptoms by switching to a vaporizer.

Studies show vaporizers can reduce the amount of tar that enters the lungs.

Studies show that vaporizers can drastically reduce the amount of tar you inhale.

Despite these findings, there haven’t been enough studies to draw a firm conclusion on vaporizers, according to Earleywine.

“But nobody wants to wait 10 years before they decide what to do,” he explains.

“It is really surprising how few studies have been done with vaporizers,” says Dr. Ian Mitchell, an emergency physician and clinical assistant professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

In spite of the lack of research, Dr. Mitchell still believes that vaporizing is the healthier option.

“I think the pros far outweigh the cons,” says Dr. Mitchell. “As a physician, I don’t condone the smoking of marijuana by anyone — that’s what vaporizers are for.”

Risks of Vaporizing Cannabis

While vaporizing seems to be better for you than smoking, that doesn’t mean it’s entirely risk-free.

Dr. Adam Winstock, founder of the Global Drug Survey, points out that vaporizing doesn’t do anything to mitigate the possible effects of cannabis, such as dependency or psychological effects.

And while there is no evidence to suggest health risks associated with vaporizing marijuana, some people have raised concerns about additives included in some vape pens.

Another concern is that cheap plastic parts may release toxic chemicals when heated at higher temperatures.

The Bottom Line: Vaping is a Safer Method

Despite the worries raised by some, experts agree that the potential health benefits from switching to a vaporizer are large.

“I think it is clear that smoking anything is not ideal for health. What little research we have seems to strongly favor vaporizing over smoking,” Dr. Earleywine says.

“Vaporizing cannabis appears to be much safer, because of reduced carbon monoxide intake, fewer toxic hydrocarbons and lower temperatures,” concludes Dr. Mitchell.

“It gives you what you want without all the bad stuff you don’t,” explains Dr. Winstock.

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