Vaping vs Smoking - Which Is Better?

A recent survey found that 2.9 million people vape in Britain, and that half of them do not smoke. The main reason most of those surveyed gave for switching to vaporizers was quitting smoking. Lately vaping has grown more popular as an alternative to cigarettes and pipes, and it's changing the way people enjoy tobacco and dry herb. But the question remains, is vaping better than smoking?

Vape High vs. Smoke High -- What Does the Science Say?

In the vaping vs smoking debate, it's often asked, "which gets you higher?" This may seem like a simple question, but it's more difficult to answer than most think.

A variety of things can affect your reaction to THC when you vape or smoke, so it's tough to pinpoint whether it was the method of inhalation that caused an uptick in highness, or some other factor like that cannabinoid-enhancing mango you had at lunch.

This is where science comes in handy.

Thanks to technologies like the gas chromatograph mass spectrometer and comparative blood tests, scientists are gaining more insight into exactly what we inhale when we smoke a joint or hit the vape.

Here's how the latest studies are answering the vaping vs smoking question.

More Effect from the Same Amount of Herb

Research suggests that vaporizers give you more potency than smoke, and with fewer irritants:

  • In a 2014 study, around 100 people stated they experienced a better high when vaping. The majority of them also claimed they'd continue vaping after the study.

  • Not long after, another study found vaping to be an effective delivery route for THC.

  • In 2004, researchers used a Volcano vaporizer to compare the contents of vapor vs smoke. Utilizing a gas chromatograph spectrometer, they found that 95% of the vapor consisted of THC. In contrast, 88% of the smoke consisted of non-cannabinoids.

While vaporizers allow you to pinpoint the best temperatures for unlocking the most cannabinoids, smoking combusts material, destroying much of the active compounds and adding more irritants to each hit.

Researchers have also found a close relationship between temperature and potency that varies from degree to degree.

A Matter of Temperature

In 2009, researchers in the Netherlands wanted to explore what happens to cannabis when heated at different temperatures. They vaporized bud at three temps (338F, 392F, and 446F), finding compounds like THC have their own boiling points at which potency is the highest.

The boiling points for some of the major compounds found in cannabis are as follows:

Unlike pipes, joints, and bongs, vaporizers allow you to pinpoint these temperatures so you can extract more of the compound you prefer, whether you want to get higher with more THC or reap the pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory benefits of CBD.

The study also found that while vapor is in general more potent than smoke, potency levels will differ from temperature to temperature.

The most potent vapor was created at 392F and 446F, a temperature range commonly found in vaporizers.

Is Vaping Cheaper Than Smoking?

Another big topic in the vaping vs smoking debate is money. Many wonder if vaping is cheaper than smoking, or vice versa.

As it turns out, vaping can save you money on an annual basis.

Smoking a pack per day will cost you around $2569 annually. In contrast, disposable vapes will cost only $1,387 a year. That means for pack-a-day smokers, switching to vaping can save $1182 per year.

If you buy a reusable vape with refillable cartridges, you cut down your annual cost even more, saving about $500 per year for a total savings of around $2000. Tobacco use is more prevalent among those with lower incomes, so for many smokers, switching to vaping can be a smart budgetary move.

For herb smokers, vaping is also more economic. Because vaping does not destroy as much herb as smoking does, users get more out of each bowl, saving them money spent on more bud. Vaping also extracts more active compounds than smoking, making vapor more potent, so you can take fewer hits, and use less herb, while still enjoying the full effect.

Is Vaping Better Than Smoking?

One third of adults are aware of vaping for a reason. To start, it's a more discreet, cost-effective, and efficient practice than smoking, hence its growing popularity. But there are also a number of additional perks to vaping that smoking doesn't offer. This makes it a more appealing practice to millennials who want a better, faster, more convenient way to enjoy herb, wax, or nicotine.

Flavor

For many, choosing vaping over smoking is a matter of taste. Vapes offer a variety of flavor options---around 7K. When every taste from desserts like key lime pie to classic tobacco and any fruit imaginable is available, it's an easy choice between vaping and smoking. Eliquid flavors come in a number of categories from gourmand to fruit, dessert to classic tobacco. While smokers can enjoy flavored wraps and infused tobacco, ejuice flavor is richer and comes in more varieties.

Even dry herb lovers enjoy more flavor when vaping, since their herb isn't being burnt. Instead, the terpenes responsible for flavor notes and aromas are activated at their ideal temperature, unlocking more tastiness. Some vaporizers feature glass vapor paths that preserve the natural flavor of dry herb, while inert heating chambers made of ceramic or quartz display better flavor with no added tastes.

Convection vaporizers are especially efficient at extracting flavor. Rather than heating herb directly against the heating element, they flush hot air through the chamber, minimizing combustion. This style of heating pulls flavor from herb without burning it. No added smokiness, just full-flavored hits. Vapes that feature precision temperature control even allow you to pinpoint the best temps for unlocking flavor from different herb strains.

Stealth

It goes without saying that smoking isn't the most discreet way of enjoying tobacco or dry herb. Smoke hangs in the air, staining ceilings and smelling up furniture. Cigarettes leave butts to dispose of, while pipes leave resin to clean. Smoking demands preparation--igniting the lighter, lighting the material--making it difficult to take quick hits when no one is looking. For many, vaping was the alternative people were waiting for--a stealthier way to experience dry herb.

Rather than blow your cover, vaporizers allow you to enjoy hits in a discreet manner. Vapor dissipates into thin air in just seconds, leaving no lingering odor. You can also take hits in a fast efficient manner. Generally, you just choose a temperature, press the heating button and take a hit once vaporization temp has been reached. Unlike smoking, vapes allow you to take rapid hits in small windows of opportunity--perfect for enjoying herb in public. The average heat up time for vaporizers is 30 seconds, but some vaporizers like the Firefly 2 heat up in just 4 seconds.

Another perk to vaping is the ability to hide a device on your person wherever you go. Portable vaporizers and pen-style units can be extraordinarily compact, enabling the user to conceal the device in their hand while they're taking a draw and carry it in their pocket throughout their day. Whereas pipes are messy and clunky to carry, a pocket-friendly vaporizer won't burden your pocket or leave resin on your pants. This added layer of stealth appeals to commuters especially.

Convenience

Convenience is a big topic in the vaping vs smoking debate, with the latter usually falling short. Imagine packing the bowl of a glass pipe. You have to make sure not to tilt the bowl or it will spill, which means you can't carry the pipe in your pocket until the bowl is spent or empty. Now picture a vaporizer. You simply fill the chamber, which closes to contain the herb. Then you can take little sips through the day, pocketing the device with no concern about spilling its contents.

Unlike smoking apparatuses, vaporizers give you unprecedented control over your temperatures. This allows you to customize the size, density, flavor, aroma, and even potency of your clouds. You can also zero in on the best temperature for unlocking specific compounds. And of course you can choose the ideal vaporization temperature for particular strains of dry herb. While smoking ignites dry herb, burning most of the compounds, vaping allows you to choose down to the degree the optimal temperature for your preferred clouds.

Rather than having to "light" your herb, vaporizers feature simple controls--usually a single button--that heat the herb chamber in a matter of seconds. While smoking demands that you ignite a match or lighter, vaping requires just the push of a button to take a quick hit. This higher level of convenience saves you time and spares you the frustration often associated with getting a smoke session going.

Does Vaping Help You Quit Smoking?

A vaporizer is by no means a guaranteed way to quit smoking cigarettes. But some research suggests vaporizers might pave the way towards the cessation of smoking.

Research pitting vaping vs smoking has shown that vaporizers help users use less tobacco, and even attempt to quit smoking. In a study published by Addiction, 65% of ecigarette vaporizer users attempted to quit smoking within a year. On the other hand, only 44% of smokers who weren't vaping tried to stop smoking cigarettes. While the study didn't show whether vaporizers helped smokers quit smoking altogether, 14% of those who vaped consumed at least half the tobacco they did when using cigarettes.

Another study published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research shows that when it comes to vaping vs smoking, smokers are more likely to quit cigarettes if they use an e-cigarette vaporizer with a refillable tanks. These eliquid vaporizers enable smokers to wean themselves off tobacco by choosing ejuice cartridges with varying potencies. Only a quarter of the 587 e-cigarette vaporizer users utilized vapes with refillable tanks, but of these, more than a quarter had quit tobacco after 12 months. Of those who did not use ecigarettes, only 13% were able to quit after a year.

The bottom line: Vaporizers show potential in increasing the likelihood of attempting to quit, but there's no guarantee.

What Happens When You Quit Smoking?

The health benefits of quitting smoking are many. In fact the positive effects after you quit smoking far outweigh the negative. While the misery of nicotine withdrawal symptoms may last as long as a few weeks, then taper off over the course of a year, the health benefits of quitting smoking can be felt across a lifetime by improving health and well-being and extending your lifespan.

Positive Effects of Quitting Smoking

Let's take a look at the health benefits of quitting smoking.

The long-term benefits of quitting smoking are significant. Life expectancy, for example, increases drastically. Non-smokers generally live ten years longer than smokers. And the risk of heart disease, lung cancer, and other cancers becomes lower each year after you quit smoking.

The short term benefits of quitting smoking are positive as well. Taste and smell and normal blood circulation return to smokers just days after quitting cold turkey, and risk of coronary artery disease already begins to decrease.

Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms

Quitting smoking is tough, which is why some smokers choose to slowly wean themselves off nicotine with a vaporizer. The physical and emotional withdrawal symptoms of nicotine addiction are wide-ranging, but their severity and duration varies from smoker to smoker. The longevity of nicotine withdrawal can depend on the length of time during which an individual was a smoker.

Physical nicotine withdrawal symptoms include dizziness, headaches, fatigue, hunger, and coughing. Psychological symptoms can range from cravings to mood swings and even confusion. All of the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal subside with time.

Why do people vape?

You might think most people try vaping in order to quit smoking. But that has changed over time. A new study shows that social image has become the main reason why people vape.

Researchers looked at 3 million tweets, filtering their search for vaping related keywords. They found 7 major incentives for vaping: affordability, flavors, safety, portability, lack of foul odor, quitting smoking, and finally, social image.

In 2012, most people chose to vape in order to quit cigarettes. But by 2015, 37% of the analyzed tweets expressed social image as the main incentive for vaping. These findings were backed up by previous data, including the observation that Google searches about quitting smoking with a vaporizer began to dwindle around the same time that people started caring more about social image than cigarette cessation, according to researchers.

As for why people have turned to vaping to boost their social image, researchers believe it is in part due to the way in which these devices have been marketed lately, with an emphasis on image.

Vaping vs Smoking -- Which is Best for You?

Ultimately the choice between vaping or smoking boils down to your preference. Many still favor the robust draws and hands-on approach of a pipe or cigarette over the cleaner, albeit more technical vapor production of today's devices. But as smoking reaches a new low and more people pick up vaping, it's clear that the latter offers advantages as far as cost, convenience, discretion, and efficiency go.