Three years ago when I started dipping my toe into the the world of vaping there was very little information about it. Looking back, these are the questions that I would have wanted answered when I started.
Let’s start at the start….
What is a vaporizer?
A vaporizer is used to heat up herbs to the point when it releases its active components and produces vapor. The advantage over burning herbs is, that the material is not combusted and hence no smoke is produced and the generated vapor does not contain toxic particles like tar, naftalene, toluene benzene and so on, making the inhaling of the vapor much less hazard to the health of the user.
Vaporizers have become popular alternatives to traditional ways of smoking weed and cigarettes. There are many benefits such as health and cost. Vaporizers work by heating the weed or oil at a cooler temperature that is required for burning. The temperature of vaporization is around 200°C or 392°F.
How do vaporizers work?
Vaporizers heat the weed just enough so that the cannabinoids evaporate into the air, without burning. If you were to take a pinch of the weed and put it on a hot pan you would see a vapor emit and it would have an aroma, this is vaporization.
There are two ways devices use to heat the material – conduction or convection:
Conduction heating is where the heating element and the materials are in direct contact. The process produces enough heat to vaporise the herbs and can be the most effective in the amount of vapor it produces. Pen and portable weed vaporizers typically have conduction heating.
Convection heating is where a fan blows air into the heating element which is then exposed to the material. This is the most effective method of vaporization. This method is preferred for the purity of the vapor produced. Unlike conduction heating methods, convection heating generally doesn’t require you to stir the materials during vaporization. The product of convection heating devices takes more technology, time and materials to product quality vaporizers. Desktop vaporizers that plug into an outlet are typically the most common vaporizers that use convection heating.
Are vaporizers and e-liquid approved by the FDA?
Currently no. At this stage vaporizers, e-liquid and e-cigs are not banned or un-approved by the FDA.
Does vaping smell?
When combusting cigarettes or weed it is the tar that makes smoke “stick” to your hair, breath, clothes, house, car and skin. Vaping doesn’t release any tar so this isn’t contributing to the smell.
Nicotine vapor doesn’t have a smell or any lingering odour.
Weed vapor does has a smell. It is no where near as much as combusting but there is still an odour. When vaping weed the smell is recognisable but it will not linger or drift to others so easily.
Weed has a very distinctive smell so it will still be recognisable to people who know what they are smelling. You can make or buy a sploof but if getting caught means you are risking attention from the police or putting your job or relationships at risk then it isn’t worth it.
How do I be discreet?
Depending on the legality of your use and the beliefs of your peers you may feel the need to hide your vaping. In this case I would suggest a portable weed vaporizer that has a variable temperature control and can vape at low temperatures.
If discretion is important then you should consider using concentrates and for bonus points use a concentrate only device like an oil pen. Concentrates produce less vapor and leave no residue which smell when the device is not in use. Also, devices that can handle flowers need more room so they end up being bigger. They also will have more residue on them so will smell more when not in use.
While requiring a higher upfront investment they can pay themselves off quickly by being far more efficient in how much weed they need to achieve the same result. Most vaporizers use 30%-40% less weed to get the same effects as combusting. How much you save depends on how much you use but you can see that the efficiency improvement is significant.
Cigarette smokers who are able to stop purchasing cigarettes should be able to reduce their costs by up to 75%. If a pack costs $7 and you smoke a pack a day it will cost $2,550. Purchasing a starter kit might set you back $150. If you were to budget $750 per year for eLiquids and buying a shiny new vaporizer every year you would still be saving truckloads of cash.
Weed smokers should be able to save 30-40% with the efficiencies that vaporizers offer. Vaporizers work by heating up the weed precisely to the point where the cannabinoids is evaporated into the air, without causing it to combust.
When weed is burned, via a joint or bong, a large percentage of the cannabinoids(such as THC) are destroyed. Since this doesn’t happen with vaporizers a less weed is required to achieve the same result.
How do I quit smoking with a personal vaporizer?
Quitting smoking with vaporizers isn’t easy but is definitely achievable. Even if you don’t quit and vaporize instead to get your nicotine you are getting massive health benefits. The main reasons I believe it is easier to quit with a personal vaporizer include:
You still get your nicotine
You get immediate health benefits
It can replace the habit
You start to dislike the cigarette smoke
It’s much cheaper
You can control your dosage
It’s more socially acceptable
With that in mind you should go and purchase a vaporizer. For quitting smoking you would probably want a pen vaporizer or something that is similar in form to a cigarette.
When purchasing your vaporizer be sure to get e-liquids that have a range of nicotine strengths. When you start you will want to have too much rather than not enough.
The trick to weaning yourself off cigarettes is not to go cold turkey or even reduce the nicotine, more that you think. When you would go to smoke a cigarette instead replace your habit of a cigarette with a vape. You should have sufficient nicotine which will calm your nerves, reduce your cravings and give your body the fix it needs.
Do this for a month or two, the first step is to simply replace the habit. The only change I would make is to introduce flavours and find ones that you really enjoy. Once you are comfortable using the vaporizer and no longer use cigarettes then you can start reducing the nicotine.
If you have been using the other flavours then you should be able to gradually reduce the nicotine without noticing.
One of the main reasons it’s hard to quit is that it’s habitual, changing habits takes time and requires incremental changes. It is easiest when you can replace it with another, healthier habit which you can control.
Is it safe?
The biggest danger from tobacco and weed is the smoke. Vaporizers don’t burn so they emit no smoke. The chemicals that vaporizers give off are trace levels of what you get from smoking. What you put into the vaporizer can have varying effects on your health.
The nicotine you put inside a vaporizer is addictive. When you stop using it you can get withdrawal symptoms including feeling irritable, depressed, restless and anxious. Too much nicotine can be dangerous for people with heart troubles.
A large proportion of deaths relating to smoking are from second-hand smoke. Since there is no smoke there is no risk to others.
While the risks appear to be significantly lower, vaping is very new so there are no long term studies of it’s effects.
Is vaping efficient?
Yes. Combustion destroys a large percentage or the THC and other cannabinoids. Most vaporizers use 30%-40% less weed to get the same effects as combusting.
Cannabinoids have different boiling temperatures so depending on the temperature that your vaporizer is set at it may not release all of them. Devices with adjustable temperatures settings can be adjusted to higher temperatures to release all of them.
Oil vapes are generally set at a higher temperature and can deliver the full range of cannabinoids.
What are the benefits?
Cigarette butts contain all the carcinogenic chemicals, pesticides, and nicotine that make tobacco use the leading cause of preventable death worldwide, yet they are commonly, unconsciously and inexcusably dumped by the trillions (5.6 trillions and counting) into the global environment each year.
Cigarette butt waste is the last socially acceptable form of littering in what has become an increasingly health and environmentally conscious world.
There are significant and immediate benefits for using vaporizers instead of combusting weed or smoking cigarettes. Smoke is the prime cause of lung cancer and many respiratory dis-orders.
When smoking weed combusted gases contain 88% non-cannabinoids. Vaporized weed gases consist of 95% cannabinoids.
For cigarettes the benefits are even greater. There are no trace amounts of carcinogens found in vapor. In cigarettes however there are 60 chemicals that are known to cause cancer. Each year around 42,000 heart disease deaths occur due to second hand cigarette smoke. Vaporizers cause none.
Vaporizing is very new so you can’t say there are no health risks with vaporizing but given that the alternatives are extremely high risks I think whatever they eventually find it will be far less than smoking.
Combusted smoke makes your hair, breath, clothes, house and car smell. Cigarette smokers skin turns yellow!
The reason that smoke sticks to you and makes you smell is because of the tar in the smoke, it sticks to everything. Vaporizers don’t combust the material so there is no tar. Weed has a very distinct smell and will always have a smell before and after vaporizing but compared to smoking it is much less and passes quickly as it isn’t attaching to everything via the tar.
More control over the dosage
Whether your goal is to quit smoking cigarettes or to medicate yourself with weed, you have far more control over how much nicotine or THC is in each dosage. You can control:
How much weed or eLiquid you add
The nicotine or weed concentration
The temperature it vaporizes at
Cigarette smokers who are able to stop purchasing cigarettes should be able to reduce their costs by up to 75%. Weed smokers should be able to reduce their costs by 30-40%.
See our question “How do I save money with a vaporizer?” to see in more detail.
If hiding your habit is important to avoid unwanted attention then vaporizers have distinct advantages over the combusting alternatives. The devices are small and can look like ordinary objects that don’t attract unwanted attention. The process of vaping produces no smoke which is the primary reason why the cigarette and weed smell lingers so much.
Vaporizers have the added advantage that flavours can be added. These are in the form of an eLiquid and can be mixed with either your eCigarette or weed. The range of flavors is vast. Just a few of the categories of flavors include: bakery, dessert, drink, floral, food, fruit, minty & tobacco.
When you smoke a joint it burns at 2012°(3653.6°F) and weed starts combusting at 392°C(737.6°F). The sweet spot is between 285°C and 338°C where the cannabinoids begin to vaporize.
When combusting almost a third of the cannabinoids are burnt off and wasted.
Vaporizers by contrast a specifically designed to reach and stay in that target temperature range. Different cannabinoids being to vaporize at different temperatures so most vaporizers have an adjustable temperature setting.
What are the differences between smoke and vapor?
Although they look similar they are fundamentally different. Smoke is produced when a weed or tobacco is destroyed by burning or combustion. Vaporization on the other hand isn’t as destructive a process. Vaporizing doesn’t involve an open flame, it relies on heating up the material to the exact boiling temperature of the cannabinoids and nicotine.
Smoke contains carbon-monoxide, tar and many other harmful toxins that are produced in this process.
Conversely vapor is much more pure. Since nothing is burned there are no toxic products being created. Weed vapor contains consists of 95% cannabinoids, with the remaining 5 percent being flavonoids and one single polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon. It contains none of the toxins found in smoke, whilst delivering a much purer and resource efficient experience.
What are the drawbacks?
Vaporizing is new and as such there are few tests that can provide insight into the long-term effects.
What do I do with vaped herb?
While vaporizers are very efficient at releasing the THC and other cannabinoids there is also a small percentage left. After vaping simply put the remaining material into a sealed jar.
The simplest option is to purchase some empty capsules and fill them. They are discreet and require no preparation.
Most weed related recipes call for the making of a certain quantity of “Cannbutter” or “Bud Butter” which is then use as a replace for standard butter.
Normally when cooking with weed you have to pre-cook it with oil to release the cannabinoids but since it has already been vaped this isn’t required.
We can’t make the decision for your about which vaporizer you should get as what your requirements are is the most important aspect to consider before choosing a device. The aspects we recommend that you consider when purchasing are:
What is most important to you – Big hits, flavor, discretion
Is stealth important
The material you want to vaporize – Flowers, concentrates, nicotine, wax, oil, eLiquid etc.
Grenco G Pro: We really love the G Pro for its affordability, quality, design and effectiveness. It represents the state-of the art for compact flower vapes with a sophisticated look, three temperature settings and a heavy duty, stainless steel heating chamber. It’s super easy to use, with a chamber capacity of 0.6 grams and multiple skins to match your style.
Kandy Pens K-Vape: Santa Barbara-based outfit Kandy Pens releases a new, flowers-only K-Vape to complement their crowd-funded, three-in-one pen. It resembles the G Pro form factor, with all the same goodies, charger, screens, brush, etc. It’s got an extra-deep, slightly bigger chamber than its competitor the Pax, and Kandy Pens throws in a lifetime warranty. The only other lifetime warranty out there is the Magic Flight.
Pinnacle Pro: VaporBlunt Pinnacle Pro is one of the only portable flower vaporizers to pair with a glass water-filter for hyper-smooth, cool, yet potent plooms. Best for around the house, the “HydroTube” attachment is an in-line bubbler. Pinnacle Pro has five heat settings, a huge battery and also works with oils, waxes and other extracts.
What should I consider when choosing a vaporizer?
When considering what is the best vape for you consider these aspects.
What is your budget? Would you be willing to save up for a better unit, or do you want one with the money you have?
What is your primary concern when choosing a vape? Big hits? Efficiency? Flavor? Discretion? If there are problems you want to avoid at all costs, what are they?
What is your typical partaking environment? Is portability a must? Stealth?
How many will be using at once? Are you basically a solo toker, or do you want a vape good for group use as well? How about parties?
What is unique about your situation that needs consideration? Do you have a particular medical complication? Do you need a vape with low restriction on the draw? Do you need something with replaceable batteries?
Why are vapes so expensive?
Vaporizers need to be well designed to be genuinely effective. The parts need to be made with non-hazardous materials and built to last continuous rigorous use and high temperatures. On top of this they need to be easy to clean and maintain, taste great and have a modern look.
The vaporizers that have the best reputation are likely to offer premium performance over the years. But due to vaping’s efficiency the money spent on a quality vaporizer will be returned to you – and very quickly too, if you are a heavy user.
What is a vape mod?
The term mod refers to a modification to the vaporizer and most often refers to a modification of the battery that powers it. The initial eCigs that appeared on the market in 2007 were lacking design quality in many areas. Specifically the factory supplied batteries were poor quality. The eCigs had the right look but lacked long life batteries.
As manufacturers have effectively solved the battery life issues modding has grown into a community who value self expression and creativity.
What questions do you have that we haven’t covered? Is there something that you wished you had known when you started vaping?