Playing With Fire – Vaporization vs. Combustion

Why is smoking bad for you? When a temperature hits combustion level, certain compounds like benzene, carbon monoxide and dioxins, and tars get released into the air. Breathing that in is toxic!

So, with that being said, what sort of temperature levels are we looking at when we are smoking either from a vape or a joint? At what heat does this become dangerous to our health? Let’s also find out if it’s possible to receive the effects of cannabis through smoking without hitting a dangerous combustion level.  


Combustion is the act of burning something. We use combustion to cause a chemical reaction to our cannabis. This reaction allows us to inhale cannabinoids and terpenes into the body. This is different from vaporization. Through vaporization, we can still inhale terpenes and cannabinoids into the body. The big difference is that vaporization is a chemical change from liquid to vapor, not a chemical reaction. 


But even then, when we “vaporize” cannabis products, we are not truly creating vapor. Vaporizers smolder the cannabis product. Think of the light smoke that loiters in the air after blowing out a candle. That’s smoldering. Of course, smolderizers is not a marketable term, so manufacturers coined the term “vaporizers” to sell their products. So, in the end, whether you’re vaping from a device or smoking from a device, combustion is still present. 

When we use combustion to ingest cannabis, the THC in the plant goes through decarboxylation. This activates the cannabinoid and gives you the desired results from cannabis. The combustion temperature of cannabis smoked from a joint, bong, or pipe is very high. Studies show that a combustion temperature of 410°F (210°C) is where the harmful compounds begin to be released. The end of the joint can be as hot as a lighter! That’s around 600°F (315°C). Dangerous compounds like carbon monoxide, dioxins, and benzene are always present in the cannabis smoke produced from a smoking accessory or a joint. This is why consumers are turning towards more controlled methods of inhaling cannabis. The most popular methods are vaping concentrates, dabs or even dry flower. It seems to offer the same desired effects of cannabis without the dangerous compounds from combustion. 


Let’s take a look at when cannabinoids reach a boiling point. THC has a boiling point of about 315°F (157°C). That is basically half the combustion temperature of smoking a joint. CBD, however, has a slightly higher boiling point, at 356°F (185°C). But these temperatures are still a far cry from the “danger” temperature of 410°F (210°C)! This means that once the THC is activated, the cannabinoid can be inhaled into your system and start working.


Some argue that burning cannabis flowers through a joint or other smoking device wastes a lot of THC. This is why many users enjoy vaporizing cannabis concentrate with a portable vape device. The lower temperature means being able to ingest a higher rate of cannabinoids while still preserving the aromatic terpenes. 

In fact, since vaping means more control over the temperature, you can receive different effects depending on the heat of your vape device. Those who vape concentrate to treat their anxiety or PTSD and other afflictions prefer to vape at a lower temperature (356°F or 185°C). This is also a preferred temperature for those who wish to enjoy the full flavor of terpenes.


The technique of vaping at a temperature between 356°F (185°C) and 392°F (200°C) allows an individual to preserve the flavor of terpenes still but will experience a psychedelic body effect. Some refer to this body effect as couch-lock, and others find it relaxing. 


To maximize the effects of vaping cannabis and optimize the entourage effect, it is suggested to set your vape temperature to 392°F (200°C) and higher. This technique is best reserved for experienced cannabis users looking to get as intoxicated as possible. 


Many cannabis users who vape still rely on a higher temperature because that’s what guarantees their desired effect. Many users tend to vape their cannabis product at 410°F (210°C), which we know is a dangerous temperature because of the released compounds. 

It would be irresponsible to say that inhaling cannabis smoke at lower temperatures is better for you than smoking a joint because either way, carbon monoxide will still present. But the amount of carbon monoxide is significantly reduced when inhaling cannabis smolder. So, in the end, we can inhale cannabis without hitting a dangerous combustion level, but since any form of cannabis we’re inhaling has been combusted, the point is moot. 


Either way, it must be pointed out that inhaling cannabis smoke or vaping poses a health risk, no matter the temperature. If you’re interested in experiencing different ways of consuming cannabis and looking for some information, feel free to sign up for our newsletter!