Safer Respiratory Systems for Consuming Cannabis

Updated on September 24, 2019

Smoking is simply the act of inhaling particulates and gases from combustion.

Conventional Smoking

The heat from the flame in front of the herbal material that is set on fire (located just at the back of a pre-rolled joint or right under the flaming material at the apex of the bowl of a pipe) converts the THC-acid to free THC, and vaporizes the THC, which is sucked in with the smoke into the lungs.

Cannabis is unique in that no other prescribed drug is administered by smoking (Mechoulam, 2012). Historically, there is proof that tobacco was smoked from time to time for medical purposes. 

But the severe health hazards of smoking tobacco are widely known. Such risks include; inflammation of the mucous membrane, shortness of breath, bronchitis, emphysema, (Gill S et al. (2005). 

As a means for delivering the target chemical (nicotine in the case of tobacco), smoking of any herbal is also likely to convey hundreds of harmful substances, and this unhealthy result is certain if and when marijuana is smoked (Tashkin 2002,2005, 2013; Reid et al. 2010; Owen et al. 2014). 

Moir et al. (2008) noticed that as well as finding many of the same toxic compounds as in tobacco, “ammonia was also present in mainstream marijuana smoke at levels that were 20 times higher than quantities found in a cigarette. 

smoke (which consists of several materials like tar, carbon monoxide, aromatic hydrocarbons, hydrocyanic acid, oxides of nitrogen, reactive aldehydes, several known carcinogens, and particulate matter such as naphthalene, benzopyrene, and dimethylphenol) are known to be harmful to respiratory tissue (Taylor 1988; Earleywine 2010). 

Weed smokers suck in more deeply than tobacco smokers when smoking, which constitutes a greater risk of exposure to combusted substances per puff, but most cannabis consumers smoke a few cigarettes in comparison to tobacco chain smokers. 

Unfortunately, marijuana is most often smoked with tobacco in Europe, parts of Asia, North Africa, and Australia.

A research comparison was carried out by Sullivan et al. (2013) in which the efficacy of filtration techniques in reducing the number of pesticides present in adsorbed smoke, and it was uncovered that a cotton-filtered water pipe allowed only 0.1% to 11% absorption. 

The trick is to use “Medicinal marijuana in low cumulative doses.” In order to reduce harm, it is preferable to make use of efficient systems that increase the proportion of cannabinoids being absorbed while decreasing exposure to numerous other volatilized substances.

Smoking cannabis preparations with much THC content is the most rampant method of accomplishing this. In order words, high-THC buds and hashish can be considered “safer,” lowering the risk from hazardous compounds by reducing the quantity of material that is smoked. 

Properly groomed cannabis or made hashish contains much higher levels of cannabinoids than marijuana that are poorly groomed. Most recently, dating back to the earliest period of the twenty-first century, black market marijuana has increased in THC content in the United States, Netherlands, and United Kingdom (McLaren et al. 2008). 

The widespread condemnation that, because cannabis in the black market has increased in potency (THC level) during the past few years (Licata et al. 2005), they are more dangerous, falls on deaf ears of pharmacologists and researchers. 

And the reason for this is, is not only because higher THC content means less unwanted particles that are needed to be inhaled, but also because marijuana dosage is auto-titrated by users who are experienced and who knows how to self-regulate. (novices are less likely to restrict their consumption to the desired point of satiety or normality). 

Valsalva Maneuver

Inherently, breath-holding time and puff volume while smoking marijuana would seem to determine the amount of THC absorbed. But both assumptions have been questioned, particularly whether sustained maintenance of smoke in the lungs increases the resulting degree of intoxication. 

The deep inhalation and prolonged holding of breath—the usual technique of smoking marijuana—create a Valsalva maneuver. The Valsalva maneuver (named after the seventeenth-century Italian Doctor A.M. Valsalva) is derived from attempting to exhale while closing the mouth and nose forcefully, and by so doing, closing the windpipe. 

This mitigates the return of venous blood to the heart and on certain occasions used to detect cardiac-conditions. 

It is also used to assess some other various forms of pathological conditions. In air travel and diving, the methodology is usually used to balance or compensate for pressure issues in the sinuses and ears. 

The Valsalva maneuver has for a long while been speculated to rarely cause a pneumothorax (collection of wind in the chest, which causes the lung to collapse), pneumomediastinum (accumulation of air in the mid part of the chest.)

The common stipulation that long (breath-holding) of cannabis smoke intensifies the effectiveness of marijuana has been argued (Zacny and Chait 1989). The common belief in breath-holding has come to be accepted as the norm that challenging it, will likely result in severe and aggressive disputes as rightly pointed out by Earleywine (2010).

Water Pipes

Water pipes (these are mechanisms used to draw smoke through water; small contraptions are usually called bongs, while larger ones are called hookahs) are widely utilized by marijuana smokers in a bid to filter out toxic substances created by combustion and to marginally limit irritation to the thorax. 

The heat that emanates from smoking can have negative side effects, such as irritation to the throat, inflammation, and dryness of throat, but because water pipes tend to cool smoke, they may yet be advantageous in the consumption of cannabis (Earleywine, 2010). 

Water is also good at removing gas-phase smoke particles, like acetaldehyde, ammonia, hydrogen cyanide, benzene and nitrosamines, carbon monoxide.

Now, bear in mind that THC is insoluble in water, but water somehow manages to trap some THC, which invariably leads to the need to smoke more when using a bong. 


Vaping as it is fondly called is a trending methodology that employes the use of smokeless pulmonary in the consumption of cannabis drugs by vaporization or volatilization, that is, a heating process that produces steam or vapor without burning or combustion at high temperatures. 

Because the temperature of the burning is kept below the point of combustion where pyrolytic toxic compounds are dispersed, toxins are being suppressed to the point where there are no particles to cause irritation to the respiratory system. 

Moreso, cannabinoids vapourize very easily and will volatilize at lower temperatures, lower than what is needed to ignite plant material. Vapes heats marijuana between the temperature ranges of about 180°C to 190°C, at which THC’s are vaporized without necessarily burning the plant material, thereby making the cannabis to produce mist rather than giving out smoke. 

This has also encouraged young enthusiasts for both medicinal and recreational use, as this system can be used with either vial of hash oil or solid concentrations of THC. More enticing is the fact that they attract less attention while producing limited odor. 

There is also the proven work of one Ruchlemer et al. (2007) which concluded beyond every reasonable doubt that; “vaporization of marijuana is a safe and effective mode of consuming THC.” 

Oral Consumption

Cannabinoids can be consumed in foods. Because THC is lipophilic, orally consumed marijuana is absorbed better by our body system if ingested alongside some fatty liquid. This is normally done by including liquids that are rich in fat like, cannabis tea—taken with cream, or the usage of butter when baking brownies.

In summary

Some break down of THC by acids in the stomach are bound to occur. Which makes Smoking a faster and full impact option as it provides noticeable effects within seconds to minutes, within a range of about 10 to 30 minutes and a lasting duration of two or three hours (which is also heavily dependent on the individual in question)— (Huestis 2005).

The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.