Vaping THC is becoming increasingly popular. But is it better than simply smoking marijuana out of a joint? How does it impact health in comparison to more traditional smoking methods?
Whereas smoking marijuana involves inhaling fumes from the burned leaves of the dried plant, vaping its psychoactive ingredient, THC, works by inhaling a vaporized version of the plant’s extract. Although both methods mean that THC is absorbed by the body quickly, neither have long-lasting effects, and both may have adverse effects on health.
As human lungs have not evolved to ingest the byproducts of combustion, smoking marijuana may lead to respiratory inflammation, an essential part of many lung diseases including asthma, lung cancer and more. Despite this, it is still unclear as to whether smoking is linked to the same health problems as cigarettes. Although a review from 2015 found that smoking weed is likely not linked to a higher risk of lung cancer, it did not measure the impact heavy consumption rates.
That said, there is nevertheless evidence that smoking weed every day over long periods of time may leave men with a higher risk of developing testicular cancer. A study from 2019 found that smoking weed daily for over 10 years is linked to a 36% high chance of developing testicular germ cell tumors, something that is prevalent in 95% of testicular cancer cases.
On the other hand, although vaping THC oil does not have the same effects as inhaling fumes from combustion, a study from 2015 found that the difference between smoking and vaping marijuana may not be so different after all. Despite that, within the last two years, the US has seen an increase of lung problems related to vaping products, including 2,758 cases of “popcorn lung”, and a total of 64 deaths thanks to the inhalation method.
About vaping, Mitch Earleywine, professor at the University of Albany, said, “We don't have long term data. It is probably better than lighting something on fire and inhaling the smoke…(However) it is distinctly possible that come 2022, we are going to find out (that) glycerin was not a good idea.”