Is There a Safer Way to Smoke Cannabis? How the Methods Stack Up
If you’re looking for the healthiest way to smoke cannabis, keep in mind that there’s no totally safe way to do so — even with the purest, most pesticide-free bud. Cannabis smoke contains most of the same toxins and carcinogens that make tobacco smoke harmful to your health.
There are, however, methods that may be slightly less harmful than others. Here’s a look at how different methods compare, plus some smoke-free alternatives to consider.
The dangers of smoke inhalation are well known, so it’s not surprising that a lot of folks assume vaping is the healthier alternative to smoking. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
There’s mounting evidence that vaping can have serious health effects. Much of the concern comes from inhaling vitamin E acetate, a chemical additive found in many vaping products containing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.
However, this risk seems to apply only to vaping concentrates, not flower. A 2006 study suggests that vaping actual cannabis, not concentrate, is less harmful to your respiratory system than smoking. Still, research on vaping cannabis is pretty limited.
Lung health aside, there’s also a matter of potency. People who vape cannabis report experiencing stronger effects — regardless of the amount of THC in the product — than they do when smoking. This means a higher chance of overdoing it, or greening out, when vaping.
Maybe a teeny, tiny bit, but nowhere near enough to make a difference.
Bongs offer a smoother toke because you don’t get the dry heat from smoking cannabis rolled in paper. Though it feels less harsh when you inhale, your lungs don’t know the difference.
Well, both still involve inhaling smoke, so there’s that. But if you had to choose the lesser of two evils, joints are probably the better option. This is because blunts are made with hollowed-out cigars, and cigars and their wrappers are highly toxic.
Even after removing all the tobacco from a cigar, cancer-causing toxins, such as nitrosamines, can remain. Plus, cigar wrappers are more porous than rolling papers, so the burning is less complete. This results in smoke with high concentrations of toxins.
Then there’s the matter of size. Blunts are a lot bigger than joints, and they hold way more pot. Smoking an entire blunt is like smoking roughly six joints.
Dabbing is supposed to give you a “cleaner” high, but what does that actually mean? Not much.
Budder — another name for dabs or marijuana concentrate — delivers a lot more THC than other weed products, often as much as 80 percent more.
Dabbing is still pretty new, so experts still don’t know the full impact.
There’s evidence that exposure to high THC may lead to long-term mental health effects, like psychosis. The risk of misuse and addiction is also higher when using high-THC products, especially for young people.
Plus, unless you have high-tech lab equipment and are trained in extraction, your dabs may be far from pure. Research shows that dabs can contain contaminants and residual solvents that can to neurotoxicity and cardiotoxicity.
Dabbing also has respiratory effects, even though you’re not technically “smoking.” There have been cases of people developing lung damage from dabbing.
The bad news? There’s no safe way to smoke cannabis. The good news? There are plenty of other ways to consume it.
Here are your main options:
- Edibles. Unlike smoking and vaping, ingesting cannabis won’t harm your lung health. The downside for some is that edibles take longer to kick in because they need to clear your digestive system before getting into your bloodstream. The upside is that the effects also hang around longer. You also have an endless variety to choose from, with everything from gummies to baked goods to cannabutter.
- Sublinguals. These are usually lumped together with edibles, but they’re not quite the same. Unlike edibles, you don’t actually swallow sublingual forms of cannabis, which include things like tinctures, films, and dissolvable tablets. Sublingual cannabis is placed under the tongue for absorption, and is absorbed through your mouth’s mucus membranes, so the effects are felt faster.
- Tinctures. Tinctures are made of alcohol-based cannabis extracts that come in bottles with droppers. You can add tinctures to drinks, but you can also get the effects faster by placing a few drops — depending on your desired dose — under your tongue.
- Topicals. Cannabis topicals are for people looking for the therapeutic benefits of cannabis without the cerebral effects. Creams, balms, and patches can be applied to the skin to relieve inflammation and pain. There’s also cannabis lubricant made for, well, sexy time.
- Suppositories. The idea of shoving cannabis up your butt (or vagina, depending on the product) may make you clench, but it’s definitely a thing. Most of the suppositories on the market are CBD-infused and used for therapeutic reasons, like pain or nausea relief, but some brands have upped their THC content for added effects.
If you’d still rather smoke your weed despite the risks, consider these harm-reduction tips to help make it a little safer:
- Don’t hold the inhale. Inhaling deeply and holding it in exposes your lungs to more tar per breath. Don’t be greedy; exhaling faster is better for you.
- Use rolling papers approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Rolling papers may seem like NBD, but some contain chemicals and flavorings that can be toxic.
- Stick to glass bongs and pipes. Plastic bongs can contain chemicals like BPA and phthalates, which have been linked to serious health effects, including cancer.
- Keep your stuff clean. Keep your bongs and pipes clean, and don’t roll your weed on dirty surfaces.
- Don’t share mouthpieces or pass joints. Sharing your stash is fine, but not your pipes, bongs, or joints. When you share these, you’re basically swapping spit with that person and putting yourself at risk for infections.
No matter how you dice it, there’s really no safe way to smoke cannabis, whether you prefer to roll one up or are partial to bongs. As cannabis becomes more popular, so do products that allow you to indulge without the smoke.
That said, if you’re partial to puffing and passing, a vaporizer that allows you to use flower, not concentrates, may be a less harmful option.
Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddleboard.
You can smoke cannabis in a variety of ways, but is one safer or healthier than others?
Blunts vs. Joints: What Is The Difference?
Despite the fact that there are now several alternative ways to consume cannabis without smoking it, the classic way to consume for most people is still to roll a joint or blunt. If you’re new to smoking weed, you may be wondering what are the differences between a blunt and joint? We’ll go over the main distinctions of a blunt vs joint so you can decide which you’d prefer to roll up with.
The first difference you’ll spot between a joint and blunt is the color of the paper. Blunts are always thicker and darker in color due to the tobacco content.
Papers can vary in appearance. There are white papers which could be bleached. Unbleached papers tend to be tanner in color but thinner than blunts. There are even transparent and gold-coated papers. Certain scented rolling papers come with designs printed on them that hint at the flavor.
Blunts come in various shapes and sizes but for the most part they are tan in color. Backwoods and fronto have veins because they consist of natural leaves. Depending on how the blunt was rolled, it will either look smooth on the outside or rigid from leaves and their veins.
One of the main reasons someone would choose a blunt over a joint is the amount of time it burns. Blunts tend to burn for a longer period of time than rolling papers because the paper they’re made with is thicker. If you prefer joints but want a slower burn there are thick papers and others labeled “slow-burning.”
The slower burn of a blunt makes it better for sharing with larger groups of people. Joints are better for fast smoking, solo smoking or for sharing between two to three people.
The main thing that sets a blunt apart from a joint is the paper used. Blunts are usually rolled with gutted cigars or cigarillos. Both cigars and cigarillos are rolled with tobacco paper and filled with tobacco before being emptied.
Others roll with fronto which is a large natural tobacco leaf that tends to be higher in nicotine content. Strips are cut out of it and added to joints but some people wrap weed entirely in fronto. If you’re not used to intaking nicotine, a fronto-wrapped blunt will be intense.
The only blunt wrap you can use that doesn’t involve tobacco is a hemp wrap. Otherwise, you’ll have to rely on rolling papers when you want to smoke papers with no tobacco content. The only time you’ll find tobacco in rolling papers is when rolling a spliff. Spliffs are joints that contain both tobacco and cannabis. In certain parts of the world, the words are used interchangeably.
Which is easier to roll when it comes to a blunt vs joint? Rolling papers will pretty much always come with fewer complications than blunt wraps. If you’re a beginner looking to avoid extra obstacles, we recommend going the joint route. Preparing rolling paper is as simple as pulling out a piece. On the other hand, a lot more can go into blunt vs joint preparation.
For example, many Dutch Master smokers deleaf the cigar before cutting and gutting the tobacco out. The leaf should be kept moist on the side. After rolling the weed in the cigar paper, the leaf should be wrapped back around the blunt. People that use this method have claimed it provides a smoother, slower burning smoke.
When you roll a blunt you’ll have to make sure your wrap is fresh. Some wraps end up getting dried out or moldy when they spend too much time outside of a humidor. If you accidentally let your cigar get dry, you will have to breathe on it until it is moist enough to be wrapped around a blunt without cracking.
To avoid having to breathe a blunt back to life, feel the pack and make sure your cigar or cigarillo isn’t already crispy. Some wraps come with holes or cracks in them making them near impossible to smoke. On the other hand, you won’t have to worry about joint papers getting dried out, cracking or containing holes.
When it comes to price, a pack of rolling papers will get you a lot more smokes than you would from a pack of equal or greater priced cigars, cigarillos and fronto leaves. You can get about 50 sheets of rolling paper for the price of a cigar depending on the brand.
If you enjoy the tobacco leaf, the most affordable way to smoke blunts is with a fronto leaf. A fronto costs about 2 cigars but you’ll get way more than two blunts out of it.
Who Wins? Blunt vs Joint
Now you know the benefits of a joint vs blunt and vice versa. Joints are better for smaller groups or individual smoking. The slow burn of a blunt wrap is ideal for groups of two or more. Joints are the most consistent and cost-effective method of rolling up. Some people prefer one over the other while the rest of us use them situationally. If you don’t have any papers there are still several ways to blaze without a pipe or papers.
There are several differences between a joint and blunt.