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8 of the Best Weed Vaporizers for the Beginner

Cristina Cianci

At this point, 33 states have legalized medical cannabis (e.g. weed or marijuana) and 10 plus the District of Columbia have legalized recreational use. So if you’re a fairly new and inexperienced cannabis consumer, it’s understandable that all of the options and information out there is a little confusing. One thing you’ve probably heard about or seen before is a weed vaporizer (often referred to as a vape or vape pen). So how do you know if a vaporizer is right for you? We’ve got you covered.

But, before we start, there are a few things to keep in mind. The fact that we can even have this conversation is a result of the vast strides cannabis legalization and normalization have made in the past several years. And it’s important to remember that some communities—especially communities of color—have been and still are being affected by prohibitive laws more than others. The same culture of prohibition that leads to and perpetuates these disparities also makes it incredibly difficult to study cannabis, including the effects of smoking and vaping.

With all of that said, here’s what we do and don’t know about the potential benefits of using a vape—plus, how to find one that’s right for you.

First off, just how risky is exposure to cannabis smoke?

Well, it’s more complicated than you might imagine. Although we can estimate the risks of smoking cannabis relative to, say, smoking cigarettes, we haven’t been able to really quantify the absolute risks associated with smoking cannabis on its own, Mallory Loflin, Ph.D., a researcher at University of California San Diego whose work focuses on the potential uses for medical cannabis among veterans, tells SELF. (To be clear, we’re just talking health risks here.)

But we do know some things: As with basically anything that burns, the process of combustion creates compounds that can cause lung irritation, resulting in coughing or wheezing in the short term, Loflin says. Some of the compounds created in that process are also associated with an increased risk for things like lung cancer. But whether or not exposure to those pyrolytic compounds (meaning they’re created when plant material is burned) in the amount that regular cannabis smokers experience could cause problems in the long term isn’t entirely clear.

One solid long-term study that examined long-term cannabis use was published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention in 2006, as Jordan Tishler, M.D., medical cannabis expert at InhaleMD in Boston, tells SELF.

For this study, researchers collected data for 1,210 people living in Los Angeles who had a history of lung or other upper aerodigestive cancers (such as oral or laryngeal cancers) and 1,040 control participants without a history of those cancers, but matched to the other participants based on age, gender, and their neighborhood.

The researchers then conducted interviews with all the participants about their use of cannabis, including the frequency, type, and duration of their use. They were also asked about their use of other substances, including tobacco and alcohol, as well as their other demographic information and their family history of cancer.

Results showed that, after statistically adjusting for tobacco use, there were no significant associations between cannabis use and the chances of developing cancer—people who reported using cannabis were not significantly more or less likely to be in the cancer or control group. The study authors do concede that their results may have been affected by selection bias and the difficulties inherent in asking people to recall their own drug use. Plus Loflin points out the fact that statistically disentangling the risks associated with smoking isn’t quite the same thing as using participants who only have long-term experience with smoking cannabis (which are, understandably, difficult to find).

But overall the authors conclude that their results suggest “the association of these cancers with marijuana, even long-term or heavy use, is not strong and may be below practically detectable limits.”

So, although there are still plenty of unanswered questions, any issues with smoking cannabis seem to be mostly confined to the time during which you’re actually smoking. “My takeaway is: Let’s avoid smoke if we can, because why not?” Dr. Tishler says. “That way we don’t get exposed to things that we might be afraid of even if they don’t seem to be causing a problem.”

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Published: December 13, 2018

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