Here at TorontoVaporizer we get asked quite often what the difference between vapor and smoke is. Many people still don’t exactly know why vaporizing vs smoking is a preferred alternative. Since smokers are generally a curious bunch, I will attempt to shed as much light on this issue as possible.
The advantage of vaporization over combustion is that vaporization is less harmful (sources are listed below the infographic below). The reasons are based in the chemical differences between vapor and smoke. What makes vapor so different?
Here’s the answer.
Disclaimer: Before I continue, please be aware that I am no doctor or qualified health professional. What you are about to read is a combination of research and personal opinion. Read and interpret at your own risk. Consider using Google to double check the facts, I love the internet and disclaimers wink wink!
Vaporizing vs Smoking
Vapor is a mix of the active components released, when the plant material is heated. The oils from the botanical change into gas form when the hot air passes through the botanical. Each type of oil has a so called “vaporization temperature” and when the air passing through the botanical has reached that temperature it makes the oil molecules change into gas form and follow the airflow. When vaporizing at the “vaporization temperature” the carbon does not burn and as a result, those harmful by-products like tar, mono and dioxide of carbon remain in the vaporized botanical. [Source]
Smoke is a by-product of combustion. What combustion does is convert the entire substance being burned into carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. The carbon collects into carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and the pure carbon that forms smoke. Smoke contains the vaporized oils from your botanicals mixed up with soot, tar, and other potentially harmful gases. Much of the essential oils,however, are destroyed as the flame causing the combustion is too hot to keep the oil molecules fully intact.
Effects of Vapor vs Smoke
Because combustion destroys the botanical’s molecular structure, the essential oils are mixed up with all the solid particles of the carbon. This is why smoke is so much denser than vapor and why all the other chemicals from the botanicals get mixed into the smoke. There is a lot of energy in this debate, but combusing herbs (be it tobacco or anything else) causes an oxidization of the carbon in the plant fiber, which creates the by products that cause the majority of problems. Cigarette smoke alone, and we are not talking about smoke from other herbs (since there is very little credible data), cause 480,000 deaths each year according to the center for Disease Control. [source
Vapor mostly contains the oils that can be released at the temperature you were vaporizing at. This means you have greater control over what’s in your vapor, by adjusting the temperature of your vaporizer. Every botanical has a different vaporization temperature range, so make sure you look up what temperature range is best for your botanical of choice. Let’s assume that our type of botanical starts vaporizing at 180 to 235 degrees Celsius. The higher you increase the temperature the more oils you vaporize. At the lower end of this range a relatively small amount of oil is released, and you get very thin or see-through vapor. At the higher end you’re releasing more oils and your vapor is denser because it’s more concentrated. This temperature is very low when compared to the tip of a cigarette burning at approximately 400-900 degrees Celsius, according to a report by the Surgeon General. But keep in mind that while the levels of carbon dioxide and monoxide are minimal [source] compared to smoke; they do increase marginally as you increase the temperature on your vaporizer. Therefore one could stay within lower temperatures if your concern is primarily to decrease the stress level on your throat.
Carbon monoxide is very destructive when it enters the body. It will bind with the red blood cells and render them useless until they are replaced naturally. However since the body has no way of measuring how many red blood cells are affected, this process is slow and results in a decrease in metabolism (energy levels, so you need more coffee to stay awake).
Odor of Vaporizing vs Smoking
The oils released from your botanicals by heat produce odors that diffuse into the air. Smoke and vapor both contain odors, but vapor is very thin compared to smoke and disperses quickly. Smoke is dense and settles in an area, keeping the smell all around you. The soot and tar in the smoke settle on solid surfaces and deep into fabrics, and carry the smell with them. They’re almost impossible to clean out, and if a smoker lives somewhere long enough all the fabric will smell of smoke even after they quit. [Source]
Vaporization keeps the original flavors from your botanicals, without destroying them by high heat and mixing them with the taste of smoke. Combustion adds in other chemicals which you don’t want to taste any more than you want them in your lungs. The technology of Portable Vaporizers has advanced substantially in 2013. See for yourself by checking out the ranking
of the top portable vaporizers of 2015. That ranking list updates fairly frequently as new units are released and reviewed.
If you find the information and credible sources in this article compelling enough to switch to vaporizing instead of smoking, check out our portable vaporizer page
and you might find a unit that matches your lifestyle. We only carry the best and include performance ratings for each unit in the respective product page.
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