Pot Matters: Vaporizer Use Among Cannabis Users

Vaping cannabis is still a relatively new practice, but according to a new study recently published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, “Those that do vape consider it to be a safer, more positive experience than smoking. “

The study, “Online survey characterizing vaporizer use among cannabis users” by Dustin Lee, Benjamin Crosier and three colleagues notes that new products are emerging in the changing legal climate, and these new ways of consuming cannabis may have implications for public health. Vaporizing or “vaping” cannabis is gaining in popularity, but according to the study not much is known about its consequences.

The study was conducted by way of a survey distributed through Facebook ads. There were 2,910 subjects with their ages ranging from 18 to 90. Eight-four percent were male, and 74 percent were Caucasian.  While not a random and therefore representative sample of cannabis users, the survey had a large enough number of subjects to describe this relatively new practice.

The key results were that 61 percent of this group has used a vaporizer sometime in their lifetime, and 37 percent had used one in the last 30 days. How many used a vaporizer a lot? One-fifth of the group had vaped more than 100 times, and for 12 percent, vaping was their preferred method for consuming cannabis.

The harm reduction potential for vaping has a solid scientific foundation. 

Two earlier studies reported that cannabis users believed vaping was less harmful to their health than conventional smoking. The theory behind this is that vaporization produces fewer carcinogenic materials (less tar, ammonia, hydrogen cyanide and nitrosamines) than conventional smoke. Another study established that at 230° C, a vaporizer extracts more cannabinoids and less carcinogenic byproducts, making the temperature of vaporization a key issue. In a 2007 study, researchers established that vaping produced fewer lung problems than smoking.

In earlier studies, subjects reported three benefits from vaping. First, it is more efficient in terms of better effects and getting more value. Also, it produces better taste and allows for more discrete use because it produces less odor.

Most of the respondents in this survey reported dual use—both vaping and conventional smoking in the last 30 days. 

Seventy-six percent reported that smoking remained their basic mode of consumption, while 21 percent used both modes about the same amount and 12 percent preferred vaporization. 

Also, most (75 percent) did not change the amount of cannabis they consumed since they started vaping. Fourteen percent cut down the amount they used, while 11 percent increased their cannabis consumption.

Comparing those who vaped and those who have never vaped, vaporizer users tended to be male, young and more likely to be Caucasian. Daily cannabis consumers were more likely to be vaporizer users than occasional users.

Here is why those who prefer vaping like it.

Generally, those who preferred vaping found it healthier, better tasting, a better high and overall more satisfying, with 72 percent believing it was healthier than smoking and 55 percent preferring the taste.

In a comparison of inexperienced versus experienced vaporizer users, experienced users tended to be male and better educated.

Overall, most of the people who responded to the survey had tried vaping, but only a small percentage preferred it to smoking. 

Nonetheless, the study’s authors believe that “as legalization of medical and recreational cannabis gains momentum and the cannabis industry grows alongside it, one would expect that trends in cannabis vaping will parallel the e-cig trend and increase rapidly.”

From a public health standpoint, the authors are concerned that the positive aspects of vaping will produce a reinforcing effect, that is, they will encourage people to smoke cannabis. However, the data from this study suggests that vaping does not change the amount of cannabis people consume.

Vaping cannabis is sure to grow in popularity as more people learn about it, appreciate its health benefits and find vaporizing technology easier to access. 

This is an important trend, because it shows promise as a case study in how legalization can contribute to healthier cannabis use through the reduction of cancer-causing material in the smoke produced through the use of conventional cigarettes, pipes and bongs.

(Photo Courtesy of Vaporizer Wire)

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