Cannabis Science

Vaping vs Smoking Weed

woman vaping

There are so many ways people can consume or use marijuana. Some of the most popular ways are by consuming edibles, tinctures, oils, smoking and vaping. Vaping has been growing in popularity over the last decade and many see it as an alternative to smoking weed. As a matter of fact, some see it as a safer alternative to smoking weed. Let’s see what vaping vs smoking weed means for your health. 

Photo: Unsplash

What is Vaping?

In case you’re not familiar, let’s do a little vaping 101. According to Healthline, vaping marijuana means inhaling heated oil through a vaping device which is commonly referred to as an e-cigarette. Healthline also said, “Vaping marijuana can also refer to using a vaporizer, such as a Volcano, to produce vapor from dried plant material.”

The Difference Between Vaping vs Smoking Weed

The main difference between vaping marijuana and smoking is the form of marijuana used. According to Healthline, smoking weed involves ground dry herb or concentrates. While vaping ground dry herb is becoming more popular with advanced technologies, generally people vape concentrated extracts.

Notably, vaping causes stronger effects than smoking. Therefore, if you’ve never used weed before or don’t use it much, approach vaping with caution. According to a study, vaping weed produced strong effects in infrequent cannabis users. 

Finally, there isn’t much difference in terms of the time weed will take effect. According to Healthline, whether you vape or smoke weed, you should start feeling effects in about 10-15 minutes, or even sooner.

Vaping vs Smoking Weed Risks

There are certain risks associated with vaping vs smoking weed. Even though the cannabinoids found in weed can have some health benefits, how you deliver these cannabinoids can have adverse effects. 

Whether you want to vape or smoke weed, Healthline says, “Most experts recommend starting vaping or smoking very slowly, taking in a small amount at first and waiting 20 to 30 minutes before having more.”

Risks of Vaping Weed

There is not a lot known about vaping weed since it’s relatively new practice. However, based on evidence it doesn’t seem like a great idea and can be dangerous.

What is interesting is that vaping marijuana seems to be more dangerous than vaping other compounds. Carol Boyd, the Deborah J. Oakley Collegiate Professor Emerita at the U-M School of Nursing. quoted in a University of Michigan article talking about how dangerous vaping marijuana is. Boyd said, “…it is all bad but if you also vape cannabis you have a greater number of unhealthy respiratory symptoms than if you just smoke cigarettes or marijuana, or vape e-cigarettes,”

Vaping is especially dangerous to younger people and those who are pregnant and the CDC recommends that those groups never vape. 

Lung Injury Associated With Vaping 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said, “CDC and FDA recommend that people not use THC-containing e-cigarette, or vaping, products”. 

The reason why vaping weed is seen as dangerous is that it’s been known to damage the lungs. The CDC writes quite a bit about the national outbreak of e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury (EVALI).

The CDC reports  “As of February 18, 2020, a total of 2,807 hospitalized EVALI cases or deaths have been reported to CDC from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and two U.S. territories (Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands).” They also reported 68 deaths. 

Why does vaping seem to cause lung injury? Well the CDC posits that it may be the inclusion of Vitamin E acetate. The CDC says, “research suggests that when vitamin E acetate is inhaled, it may interfere with normal lung functioning.”

Risks of Smoking Weed

Smoking anything at all can be risky and dangerous to your health. Inhaling marijuana smoke can be dangerous because it:

  • Contains cancer-causing compounds
  • Can put the smoker at risk for tar build-up

There are some studies that only found negative effects between smoking weed and lung function with heavy users. According to Healthline, some negative effects of heavy use are:

  • Weakened immune system
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Excessive mucus production
  • Cough
  • Wheezing 


It seems both vaping and smoking weed carry some amount of risk. Since vaping is newer, there is less known about the long-term effects. However, there is very compelling evidence that it causes lung injuries. When it comes to smoking weed, the negative outcomes seem to be associated with heavier use. It’s best to just arm yourself with the information so you can make a more informed decision if you decide to partake in either. Remember there are other ways to use weed that pose minimal risk to your lungs.


About Trevann

Trevann is Stoner Rotation’s Jamaica-based lead writer for the Science section of our cannabis blog. She graduated with honors receiving her Bachelor of Science degree in Molecular Biology from the University of West Indies, Mona. For the last three years, she has covered some of the biggest questions around cannabis and health underpinned with research from supporting studies, medical journals and scholarly articles. Got something on your mind? You can reach her at [email protected].