Is vaping CBD less harmful than smoking?

Vaping instead of smoking - what makes steam healthier?

We had a study checked that examined hemp smoke and hemp vapor and compared the different ingredients. Our article explains why vaping is more efficient and significantly less harmful than smoking.


For an introduction to the subject of vaporizing, there are three articles that we found in previous editions of Legalize it! have printed. In the article “Vaporizing instead of smoking - the new pleasure”, we described the technical basics of vaporizing and compared it with the processes in a joint (Legalize it! 27, pages 11-13). In the article “Overview of three vaporizers” we carried out a small test with different vaporizers that are on the market (Legalize it! 28, pages 11-13). Regarding the substances contained in cannabis, the article “Trans, levo isomer of Delta-9-Tetra-Hydro-Cannabinol” can be found in Legalize it! 29, pages 4-5, is recommended.

Result of the self-test

If you really want to smoke yourself again and do it with joints, you will definitely notice it in your lungs the next morning. The burden is there, no question about it. However, if you have such a weed evening and instead of smoking, vaporize and inhale THC, you will hardly notice any impairment of lung function the next morning. Furthermore, you need less hemp flowers for the same stench. That is the opinion of many stoners, including me. However, it is not at all easy to grasp this subjective feeling in scientific criteria.

The original study

The study that we want to discuss here was carried out in 2003, comprises 55 pages and is entitled "Evaluation Of Volcano® Vaporizer For The Efficient Emission Of THC, CBD, CBN And The Significant Reduction And / Or Elimination Of Polynuclear-Aromatic (PNA ) Analytes Resultant Of Pyrolysis ». So the first thing is to find out how efficiently THC is released through vaporization and, secondly, to determine the occurrence of polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) (these are particularly problematic because they are carcinogenic and are mainly produced by incomplete combustion). The original study was commissioned by the organizations MAPS and NORML in the USA - two organizations that try to study psychedelic issues or to change cannabis laws.

How did we examine the study?

First I read the extensive study a couple of times, discussed it with a scientist and then we commissioned the IOS3 Institute in Bern with a small study of this study, so that we were really sure that we could understand the essential parts and assess their quality . Furthermore, in this article we let our admittedly subjective, but concrete steam experiences flow, which we have gained with vaporizing for over a year. However, we always point out whether a result comes from the study or from ourselves.

Which vaporizer was investigated?

The authors of the study first examined various vaporizing devices and, as we did in Legalize it! 27, finally, the Volcano is the most sophisticated device that is currently on the market (and is also the most used by us). The Volcano pumps air through holes in a piece of metal that has been heated to the desired temperature (around 200 degrees Celsius). The warm air flows through the grass and the resulting steam is caught in a balloon and can then be consumed.

How did the study proceed with the THC test?

A portion of hemp herb was divided into different parts of equal size and examined in three different ways. Firstly, the THC content of the substance itself, secondly the THC yield during combustion and thirdly the THC yield during evaporation were measured in several runs.

1) The extraction was carried out as follows. Several portions of grass were treated with ethanol (a solvent) and the resulting solutions were then examined for their contents. With this, pretty much all THC could be released from the sample material.

2) The incineration was carried out as follows. Several servings of grass were dissolved into smoke in a special machine that heated the grass to over 230 degrees Celsius (which caused the grass to ignite itself). Then this smoke was dissolved in methanol (a solvent) and examined for its contents. With this procedure nothing remained (except ashes) - all material was destroyed. In relation to smoking, this test arrangement naturally has a decisive difference: if you smoke weed pure in a joint, you can never inhale all the smoke that is produced - a large part of it pulls away from the joint if you don't pull and, above all, if you stop pulling .

3) As mentioned, the evaporation was carried out with the Volcano. Several portions of grass were heated three times with the Volcano and the steam generated in this way was collected and again dissolved with methanol and examined for the ingredients. Of course, there is still material left over, because evaporation does not destroy all of the material used, but only dissolves a small part of the total mass into a gaseous phase. Unfortunately, the remaining material was not investigated further in this study (although further THC can of course be found in it - in any case, when we try to do this, we find that even after the fifth heating process, THC that is still entering is dissolved.)

Comparison of the efficiency of the THC yield

When the weed was treated with ethanol to dissolve the THC, the results averaged 4.15 percent THC. This means that the weed used in all three experiments has a (rather low) content of around 4 percent THC. (Good weed has 10 to 20 percent THC.) So now the basic value for the weed had been determined, and this could now be compared with the values ​​for combustion and vaporization. A value of 1.95 percent THC was found for steam and 3.24 percent THC for burning. So if the 4 percent THC is the maximum, i.e. 100 percent, it was possible to get around 80 percent of the THC out of the material with complete combustion (the rest was destroyed by the heat), while around 50 percent of the THC when vaping have been resolved.

What does this result mean in practice?

Anyone who smokes can therefore always expect a fundamental loss of 20 percent THC. In addition, there is the loss caused by the smoke drifting away. Here, the type of consumption has a decisive effect on the efficiency of the absorption of THC. Unfortunately, the study was unable to determine this loss. The 80 percent found in the laboratory could only be used if you inhaled all the smoke, which is impossible with joint smoking. We suspect that about half of the THC disappears in the smoke and half gets into the lungs. Calculated in this way, the yield under real conditions would be around 40 percent. In the case of evaporation, as mentioned, a 50 percent yield is achieved after three heating passes. Unfortunately, the study did not provide precise information on how much THC each vaporizing process dissolved (three vapors were performed and then all of the vapor was examined together). From our evaporation experience, we would estimate that the first balloon / heating pass releases around 20 percent, the second then 15 percent, the third perhaps another 15 percent, the fourth around 10 percent, the fifth also 10 percent, the sixth and the then each below 10 percent. It is very fine up to the third balloon, then the quality of the taste slowly decreases. Therefore, you can do four to seven rounds in practical use, which should solve over two thirds, i.e. 70 percent, of the existing THC. This is also confirmed by the impression that the same amount evaporates more strongly than when it is smoked. But by and large, it can be said that in the end, the consumer ultimately loses THC both when smoking and when vaping. (You can only imagine eating without any losses. Those who eat cannabis should have the best possible utilization, because all THC gets into the body.) The losses, however, are likely to be greater when smoking than when vaporizing. We'd say the vaping seems to be about twice as efficient. But the biggest difference between vaping and smoking is not primarily in the efficiency, but in the ingredients.

Semi-quantitative study

In a second step, it was investigated which other substances (besides THC) can be found in the steam or in the smoke. When analyzing the steam, the study authors found that THC and other cannabinoids make up around 95 to 98 percent of the steam. The rest is partly (around 1 percent) caryophyllene (a flavor), and partly one or two polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) have been found (around 2 to 4 percent). These substances can cause cancer and are problematic. The cannabinoids, on the other hand, do not cause any health problems as far as we know to date (they simply retract), but the flavoring substance caryophyllene can irritate the lungs (which is also noticeable when smoking strong-smelling cannabis). But just: the vast majority of the vapor simply consists of THC, the problematic substances are only marginally to be found. The ratio of cannabinoids to the rest is between 98: 2 to 95: 5 when vaping. This means that most of the steam is certainly unproblematic. On the other hand, it is also not completely harmless. In the smoke, on the other hand, the researchers found around 12 percent cannabinoids, around 0.75 percent caryophyllene and all the rest consisted primarily of various PAHs. More than 100 (!) Different problematic substances were found - substances that do not contribute anything to the retraction, but can burden the lungs and cause cancer. The ratio of cannabinoids to the rest is around 12:88 when smoking. This ratio is practically the opposite of that for steaming. (By the way: Since only weed was tested here, the normal joint smoker, who mixes cannabis with tobacco, also contains other substances that only occur in tobacco: especially nicotine. The PAHs, on the other hand, are of course very similar - whether you use weed , Tobacco or whatever smokes, such substances are always released).


In its final report on this study, the IO3S writes: «The study is certainly useful for making qualitative statements; i.e. to prove that there are practically no combustion materials. " However, the exact quantification of the ingredients was not convincingly solved. “As far as the carcinogenic effect is concerned, it will certainly be a few hundred times lower, but some substances naturally occurring in the plant (e.g. some aromatic substances) can also be carcinogenic in excessive doses. What has been proven with certainty is that far fewer problematic substances are absorbed. " It is likely that higher levels of THC would also be consumed. However, this cannot be clearly proven by this study.

Test the vaporizer

If you would like to marvel at a vaporizer up close and, above all, test it, we offer the following. We have four vaporizers in our office: the Volcano (with which the study described here was carried out), the Element, the Vapir and an older model from the Aromed. You should be able to take a few hours and be in Zurich on a Friday. From 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. we can make an appointment and show you the devices. We find vaporizing a very good alternative to smoking. In terms of taste, the evaporation is unsurpassed, the retraction is strong and clear. You need less material than smoking. But the main advantage is the lack of smell: Even if you've been vaping for a whole evening in a closed room, it doesn't stink in any way. Even blatant smokers cannot detect any emissions with the best will in the world (but those who vape can see the effects of THC in their brains). This makes vaporizing ideal for small apartments or in places where non-smokers and smokers (have to) live together. The only downside to vaping is the initial cost of such a device. You should budget for 500 to 800 francs (there are also poorly or non-functioning “evaporators”). But the price is quickly recovered thanks to the higher efficiency. And the taste is priceless!

Last modified: 2019/05/07 15:29 by