The rise of legal recreational and medical marijuana use has resulted in a multitude of new products hitting the industry. Among the most popular of the past several years are two products that, somewhat ironically, also represent opposing sides of the consumption market. We’re talking about dab rigs (and pens) and vaporizers.
There are a lot of different ways to consume cannabis these days, dabbing and vaping have both dramatically risen in popularity. Both are often considered healthier than standard bong smoking or firing up a joint, but why? How exactly do they work, and is either one actually safer than the other? To understand these things, it’s necessary to look at how heat plays a role. We’ll go over the different heat methods involved, then compare.
Dab Rigs and Vaporizers That Use Convective Heating
If you paid attention in high school science class, you may be familiar with convective heating. In a nutshell, this is where heat is transferred from one spot to another via the movement of liquids and gasses. When using a dab rig, you do not heat the cannabis extract product (usually wax or oil) directly itself. Instead, you use a torch to heat the rig’s nail, which then heats the product and turns it into a vapor that you can smoke.
Some vaporizer models also utilize the same general convective process as dab rigs, though often in more compact form. That said, most of today’s vaporizers use conductive heating. Keep reading to learn about how this works.
Vaporizers That Use Conductive Heating
Conductive heating is a more direct process that involves contact between a hot surface and a cool object (upon which heat is transferred to the cool object). When it comes to personal vaporizers, no torches are needed for vaping, and nothing is actually burned. Instead, a small heat element called an atomizer can easily be triggered on (via a battery) to create a heated surface inside the vape pen. This surface is right next to a small tank or chamber that holds the cannabis product (or extracted product), thus creating smoke-able vapor.
So, Which One is Healthier?
It’s important to note here that neither dabbing nor vaping is considered “healthy”, they are both considered a better alternative to traditional smoking methods. Neither method contains the carcinogens that are found in rolling papers or cannabis-tobacco smoke blends. That said, dabbing and vaping don’t necessarily carry the same amount of risk as each other.
One of the biggest downsides to dabbing is that the heat can get up to 1,000 degrees while the extract product is being transformed to a vapor. As you’ll notice after multiple uses, a dab rig can gain a “dirty” appearance from the charring and, well, sizzling of the product that takes place. Just as you wouldn’t want to eat a burnt piece of toast, you also don’t really want to be breathing this char in on a regular basis, even indirectly.
Another downside is that the user has very little control over the heat level in convective heating, which may result in more unwanted chemicals and even more vapor inhaled at once. With conductive heating vaporizers, the user has more direct control. Holding down the button (that triggers the battery) longer will result in higher amounts of heat. Meanwhile, shorter holds result in less vapor being emitted and therefore fewer risks. The lack of high heat may also reduce the potential chemicals being released.
While more studies are needed to determine the exact risks associated with dabbing and vaping, most cannabis experts consider vaping to be a safer option.