“Better” is the operative work in the question: “Is vaping or smoking better cannabis better for your health?” If we’re talking safety here, we should defer to the data. With that in mind, we should start by noting that taking anything into your lungs other than fresh unpolluted air presents some risk.
We also should consider, first, how the question balances with the risks of inhaling tobacco smoke and, second, how this relates to the elephant in the room. That is, we cannot ignore recent deaths attributed to vaping.
Vaping and recent deaths —
The Centers for Disease Control has reported on E-cigarette or Vaping Product Use-associated Lung Injury (EVALI). They studied 152 different THC-containing product brands and made several conclusions:
- Dank Vapes, a class of largely counterfeit THC-containing products of unknown origin, was the most reported product brand used by EVALI patients in the Northeast and South, TKO and Smart Cart in the West, and Rove in the Midwest.
- Vitamin E acetate should not be added to e-cigarette or vaping, products.
- People should not add substances not intended by the manufacturer to products.
- There are many different substances other than vitamin E acetate being investigated as there may be more than one cause.
As of December 10, 2019, the reported 52 deaths among 2,409 hospitalized patients. They also note that reported cases have been declining and that people using vaping for cigarette smoking cessation should not return to smoking tobacco.
The data should be adjusted for the prevalence among adolescent users whose lungs have not fully developed and who may have purchased their vaping tools or fluids off-market. The Wall Street Journal confirms, “A large portion of the THC products were illicit and obtained from friends, family members, illicit dealers, online or other sources, and federal health officials believe these unregulated products are fueling the outbreak.” (By “online,” they mean shady providers through sites like Craigslist.)
Conclusion? You should buy vaping devices and e-fluids from trusted providers. You must review ingredients and avoid vitamin E acetate in THC products.
We’re not positioned to endorse products, but you might investigate the specifics attached to:
- Ease markets a 1000mg THC Vape Liquid throughout Canada. It comes with certified third-party lab testing ensuring there is no vitamin E acetate.
- ABX (AbsoluteXtracts) offers pure, safe, and potent cannabis concentrates. Northern California-based with their own farms and CO2 extraction processing, they claim no additives and test through third-party labs.
- Pure products include a variety of potent THC vaping fluids heavily and frequently tested by Landau Lab for microbiological contaminants, residual solvents, cannabinoids, and heavy metals. Results for testing of each product are posted on their website.
Smoking cannabis and your health —
Harvard Medical School warns, “One of the few things scientists know for sure about marijuana and cardiovascular health is that people with established heart disease who are under stress develop chest pain more quickly if they have been smoking marijuana than they would have otherwise.”
Various research studies indicate chronic cannabis use may or may not trigger schizophrenia, may or may not aggravate bipolar disorder, and may or may not contribute to pulmonary conditions. Claims that it leads to testicular cancer are limited to a seminoma subtype.
Depending on your medical precondition, your family’s history of disease, and your DNA’s predisposition to health problems, you must use cannabis with those risks in mind. Depending on the strain of cannabis and the reliability of the source, your cannabis product may or may not include the toxins, pesticides, and carcinogens you would find in cannabis.
In reporting on cigarette smoking, Scientific American said, “As exposure to tobacco goes up, lung capacity in terms of the amount of air a smoker can exhale goes down. It's a linear relationship.” At the same time, the magazine noted, “occasional marijuana use was associated with slight increases in lung airflow rates and increases in lung volume.”
The important term here is “occasional.” If your cannabis smoking is heavy and chronic and, perhaps, combined with alcohol and/or tobacco use, you are risking your health in many ways. But the cost of cannabis will keep you from using frequently. Where a cigarette smoker may light up 30 to 40 times a day, cannabis users are much less likely to use it. So, barring predisposition to medical problems, you can enjoy an occasional hit like you would the occasional drink.
Otherwise, there is no hard data linking the use of well-farmed and processed marijuana with negative health risks. Some bongs, dabs, and variations of hookahs also filter out the harsh carbon debris from combustion by flame. Moderate and conscientious use is your choice to make.