Smoking isn't ideal because it requires combustion, which not only damages the lungs, but also wastes the active ingredients in your blends. The respiratory hazards of smoke are due to toxic by-products of combustion, not the active ingredients in the herb. Combustion is the process of igniting and burning plant material, creating smoke which can lead to lung cancer and many other respiratory disorders. Holding in smoke after inhaling absorbs even more tar and noxious chemicals into the lungs.
By contrast, vaporizing is the process of heating plant material to 380-410° F, just below the point of combustion. This process extracts the full-flavor active compounds and purity of the plant material. With vaporization, you only need to take small, shallow puffs to get noticeable therapeutic effects. Vaporizing also boasts enhanced efficiency, only requiring a fraction of the material you would normally use to get the same effects. By producing vapor at temperatures much lower than that of combustion, your ingredients will last much longer than smoking them.
Vaporizers heat dry herb blends at a much lower temperature than smoking, vaporizing material instead of making it combust. Studies seem to indicate that the release of harmful constituents are dramatically reduced when vaping as compared to smoking.
1 In 2007, a study by University of California at San Francisco published in the Official Journal of the American Academy of Neurology examined the effects of a vaporizer and found that "using CO as an indicator, there was virtually no exposure to harmful combustion products using the vaporizing device." [source]
2 A 2006 study performed by researchers at Leiden University testing a Volcano Vaporizer claims "Our [vaporizer] results show that a safe and effective delivery system seems to be available to patients. The final uptake is comparable to the smoking, while avoiding the respiratory disadvantages of smoking." [source]
3 In a 2001 study testing a device called the M1 Volatizer, researchers discovered that "it is possible to vaporize medically active compoundsby heating to a temperature short of the point of combustion, thereby eliminating or substantially reducing harmful smoke toxins that are normally present in smoke." [source]
4 Researchers from the University at New York at Albany and the University of Southern California tested 7,000 participants in a 2007 study and concluded that "vaporizer users are only 40% as likely to report respiratory symptoms as users who do not vaporize, even when age, sex, cigarette use, and amount of blends consumed are controlled." [source]
5 million die each year from tobacco-related illness, with secondhand smoke killing 600,000 people annually. That's 1 in 100 people per year [World Health Organization].
Cigarette smoking is the number preventable cause of death in the United States, killing more people than HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol, vehicular accidents, and gun violence combined [Center for Disease Control].
Yet still over a billion people smoke worldwide.
So what can be done?
While there isn't enough research yet to make claims about vaporizing as a healthier alternative, the negative health effects of smoking are growing alarmingly clearer. This seems to be making a positive impact on the national smoking rate. More people quit smoking in 2015 than any previous year since 1993, with the national smoking rate decreasing 2%. In fact, the CDC has observed a downhill trend in smoking in the U.S.
If you are a smoker, even a casual one, make sure that you are aware of the health risks of smoking. Though the effects may seem trivial to some, you will find that even "bumming" the occasional cigarette costs more than you think. Before you light up, consider the following:
According to the CDC (cited above), smoking is responsible for around 90% of deaths caused by lung cancer in both men and women. In fact, breast cancer causes fewer deaths in women than lung cancer. Around 8 out of 10 deaths related to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which affects the lungs, are caused by smoking. Overall, smoking affects almost every bodily organ, and is related to a host of health issues and diseases.
A study conducted by WHO (cited above) estimated "as many as 40 percent of children, 35 percent of women, and 33 percent of men are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke indoors." Furthermore, a 2017 study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that thirdhand smoke, or residue left on surfaces by cigarette smoke, negatively affects weight development and blood cell counts. Researchers found that smoke-contaminated mice experienced unhealthy weight loss and an increase in white blood cells related to inflammation and allergic reactions. Infants were found to be at greater risk from thirdhand smoke-related health problems because of their developing immune systems and the contact they make with contaminated surfaces while crawling or teething.
The effects of smoking on the skin are not pretty. Tobacco smoke causes oxidative stress to your skin cells (similar to rust) by depriving them of oxygen. This creates dryness in your skin, not allowing proper blood flow, and even reduces proper oil dispersion, which is essential for healthy skin. The above study shows images comparing the damaged skin of a 40-year-old smoker to that of a 70-year-old non-smoker. Smoking also contributes to yellowing of teeth and fingers and increases your likelihood of skin cancer.
Smoking is a contributing cause of male impotence. Studies have found that smoking can impede the ability of men who smoke to achieve and maintain an erection. Researchers also found that the sperm of smokers was sufficiently more damaged than those of non-smokers. Smoking was found to affect the number of sperm in male smokers' semen, a bad sign for those who like a cig after sex. Smoking has also been linked to decreased libido in both men and women. Researchers found that couples who indulged in cigarettes engaged in physical intimacy less than half as much as those who were smoke-free. Sexual health obviously encompasses much more than physical factors, however decreased sexual performance attributed to smoking could compound other contributing factors. Want more sex? Better Sex? Quit Smoking.
Disclaimer: The resources above are informational content about the health risks of smoking. This information should in no way be construed as medical advice.