Vaping, or using a vaporizer and inhaling vapor rather than smoking, is gaining in popularity despite its opponents. It is used as an alternative to tobacco, and also as a means of ingesting marijuana, though many marijuana users continue to smoke the traditional joints, blunts, and pipes.
For one thing, the physical sensation is not the same. Vaping doesn’t have the same mouthfeel as smoking a joint or taking a hit off of a pipe.
One writer at The Cannabist sneers at vapers, dismissing them as faddists. He does seem to have a point, considering how for some vapers a large, thick plume of vapor seems more important than the actual effect of the cannabis.
However, while smokers do want the effects, or the flavor, or the related oral sensation, and the ostentatious display seems to be part of vaping’s allure, very few are trying for the largest, most visible cloud of smoke that they can achieve.
Some marijuana smokers consider the output of vaping pens to be unsatisfactory, as well. Paul Tokin of the YouTube channel Tokin Daily has been quoted as saying “Vape pen highs are substandard and wispy compared to a high from smoking or vaping with a home vaporizer.”
The health claims about vaping are not entirely definitive, either. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the claim that second-hand vapor is just water vapor, but that’s patently not true. In e-cigarettes, it’s vaporized glycerin, propylene glycol, nicotine (or not), and flavoring/coloring agents. Yes, the FDA considers these ingredients generally safe, and propylene glycol is used in dance hall smoke machines without anyone getting excited, but if you look at the labels on the propylene glycol sold for use in smoke machines, they recommend keeping exposure to the vapor limited, not hitting it on a regular basis throughout your day.
That said, there’s very little dispute that vaping is safer than smoking. When you start considering the pros and cons of vaping with respect to marijuana, remember that burning plant material gives off a lot of chemicals that don’t do lungs any good.
There have been very few studies on the health effects of vaping or smoking marijuana, and more studies are needed. But even the experts who worry about the possible safety hazards of vaping will admit that it’s safer than smoking. Dr. John Malouff, a researcher at the University of New England in Australia, has been vocal about vaping being preferable to smoking from a health standpoint.
Vaping, when compared to smoking, is almost odorless. It doesn’t require a fire to start it, and it can be done subtly in public. Vaping ex-smokers report less lung irritation, less coughing up phlegm, and less shortness of breath. Vaping is, in many ways, more discreet than smoking. People who wish to inhale marijuana, whether for recreational or medical purposes, should consider vaping as the healthier option. Those who have switched from smoking to vaping are, by a wide margin, glad that they did.