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Nicotine vs. Cannabis Vaping: Scientific Insights Into Health Implications

Lemetria Whitehurst

by Lemetria Whitehurst

August 29, 2023 08:00 am ET Estimated Read Time: 7 Minutes
Nicotine vs. Cannabis Vaping: Scientific Insights Into Health Implications

Originally associated with nicotine, vaping cannabis has boomed in popularity over the past few decades. The two forms, while similar in their method of intake, are worlds apart when it comes to their impact on our health. As a society, there is a tendency to believe that all forms of smoking are detrimental to our health. However, recent scientific evidence suggests a different narrative. In this article, we will examine the safety of nicotine vs. cannabis vaping based on evidence backed by scientific research.

Understanding Vaping: Nicotine vs. Cannabis

As we navigate our way through the 21st century, we find ourselves witnessing an unprecedented rise in the popularity of vaping. According to recent reports, the e-cigarette and vape market size was valued at $22.45 billion in 2022 and is expected to grow to $391.1 billion at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 31.1% by 2032.  

Before we delve into the intricate comparison between nicotine vs. cannabis vaping it’s essential to understand the fundamental concept of vaping. In simple terms, vaping involves inhaling a vapor created by heating a liquid or oil, often called vape juice or e-liquid, without combusting any material. This is where the critical differences between nicotine and cannabis vaping emerge. 

Nicotine vaping, more commonly known as e-cigarettes, involves heating a liquid containing nicotine, propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin, and flavorings. On the other hand, cannabis vaping refers to heating cannabis concentrates or flower to release cannabinoids like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) in vapor form.

Though both methods bypass the harmful effects of combustion, the nature of the substances vaporized—nicotine vs. cannabis compounds—and their associated chemicals can have significantly different impacts on the user’s health. The following sections will dive deeper into these variations and their implications.

The Health Implications of Nicotine Vaping

The health implications associated with nicotine vaping are extensive and well-documented in scientific literature. Nicotine, an addictive substance found in both traditional cigarettes and e-cigarettes, has long been linked to cardiovascular, respiratory, and gastrointestinal disorders, not to mention its impact on metabolic and neurologic functions.

A 2019 study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that e-cigarettes are no safer than traditional tobacco when it comes to cardiovascular disease, primarily due to the presence of nicotine. 

Furthermore, a recent study from the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) identified that e-cigarette users were significantly more likely to develop chronic lung disease than non-users. Yet, the real concern lies in the addictive nature of nicotine. It’s a potent stimulant that can lead to dependency, resulting in withdrawal symptoms upon cessation.

This addictive potential not only perpetuates the cycle of use but also exposes users to the health risks associated with long-term vaping. As we compare nicotine vs. cannabis vaping in the following sections, you may notice a striking difference in health-related implications.

The Health Implications of Cannabis Vaping

As we turn our attention to the health implications of cannabis vaping, the narrative shifts significantly. Research surrounding cannabis vaping is still evolving, but current studies suggest it poses fewer health risks than nicotine vaping. Comparing nicotine vs. cannabis, cannabinoids found in cannabis—most notably THC and CBD—are not known to be physically addictive, unlike nicotine.

A 2017 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine highlighted that cannabis use is not associated with the same physical addiction symptoms that nicotine use is. Furthermore, cannabis has gained recognition for its therapeutic potential in alternative medicine. Particularly, the consumption of cannabinoids through vaping can potentially alleviate symptoms of chronic pain, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and more. 

Additionally, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association demonstrated that medical cannabis users reported significant improvements in pain management when vaporizing cannabis. However, it is essential to note that while cannabis is less addictive and potentially therapeutic, it does not eliminate potential risks entirely.

The precise health effects can vary widely among individuals and depend significantly on the consumption method, frequency, and cannabis strain consumed. As research in this field progresses, we’ll gain a clearer picture of the full health implications of cannabis vaping.

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Nicotine vs. Cannabis Vaping: Which Is Safer?

A recent 2023 study published in the journal Thorax presents compelling evidence comparing the acute pulmonary impacts of vaporized nicotine vs. cannabis, and CBD in particular. The research combined both in vivo studies on mice and in vitro cytotoxicity experiments with human cells to assess potential lung damage. The main findings indicated that inhalation of CBD aerosol led to greater inflammatory changes, more severe lung damage, higher oxidative stress, and higher toxicity to human cells than nicotine.

However, while this research provides crucial insights, it represents just one piece of a complex puzzle. The study primarily looks at the acute effects of vaping these substances, and the broader, chronic effects are not addressed. The results could also be influenced by variables such as the specific vaping devices used, the substance concentrations vaporized, and the particular experimental conditions.

When juxtaposing the health impacts of cannabis and nicotine vaping, the distinction becomes clear. As we’ve seen, scientific research indicates that while both practices involve inhaling substances into your lungs, their health outcomes differ significantly. 

The nicotine in e-cigarettes poses various health risks, including heart disease and lung damage, and carries the potential for addiction. Conversely, the cannabinoids in cannabis vapor, while not entirely risk-free, do not have the same physically addictive properties and can even offer therapeutic benefits for some users. 

This isn’t to say that cannabis vaping is entirely safe, as any form of inhalation carries inherent risks. As always, more research is needed to fully understand the long-term effects of nicotine vs. cannabis vaping. 

The Specific Role of Cannabis as Alternative Medicine

Cannabis’s role within the broader context of alternative medicine is an important aspect of this conversation. Alternative medicine encompasses a variety of practices outside conventional Western medicine, many of which have been used for thousands of years and are now gaining renewed attention. As science continues to explore the potential of plant-based therapies, cannabis stands out as a plant with a wealth of potential medicinal properties. 

Responsible and therapeutic cannabis use, particularly through vaping, can offer the benefits of cannabinoids like THC and CBD without the harmful effects associated with combustion in traditional smoking. 

Potential benefits range from pain and nausea relief to stress and anxiety reduction, with many patients finding success with cannabis when traditional treatments have failed. As scientific research advances and societal attitudes shift, cannabis is carving out its own space in the realm of alternative medicine, offering a unique blend of therapeutic potential and harm reduction compared to other inhalation methods.

Final Thoughts on Nicotine vs. Cannabis Vaping

The increasing popularity of vaping has brought to light a critical conversation comparing the health implications of nicotine and cannabis vaping. Through a deep dive into current scientific research, we’ve observed that while no form of inhalation is entirely without risk, evidence suggests that cannabis vaping may be a less harmful alternative to nicotine vaping.

Furthermore, the the therapeutic prospects of cannabis, particularly in the context of alternative medicine, add another dimension to this discussion. However, the field is still young, and there is a dire need for more comprehensive, long-term studies.

Let’s utilize this knowledge as a starting point, inspiring further research and fostering an informed dialogue about vaping cannabis and its role in alternative medicine. Doing so will pave the way for better understanding and healthier choices.

Note: The content on this page is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be professional medical advice. Do not attempt to self-diagnose or prescribe treatment based on the information provided. Always consult a physician before making any decision on the treatment of a medical condition.

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