Smoking normally, the heat from fire causes substances to change from a solid state to a vapor. In cigarettes, this releases nicotine which is absorbed into your bloodstream through the lungs, causing increased heart rate, constricted blood vessels, a release of dopamine in the brain, and feelings of alertness. But because nicotine is a stimulant, once it’s no longer present, you crash and crave more, which ultimately leads to addiction in many people.
In the case of marijuana, the active component Tetrahydrocannabinol (aka THC) is aerosolized and follows the same pathway into your body, but with different effects.
Smoking only takes six seconds for the active compounds to reach your nervous system. This smoke consist of partially burned particles, which creates tar in your body, has cancer causing effects, blackens teeth and destroys taste buds.
In vaping. If you can heat the active components enough to become aerosolized without starting a combustion reaction with the other compounds, then you theoretically get fast effects without the damage of smoke inhalation.
Vaping typically involves a glass or metal chamber which has an electrical current passing through it. This way, it can be heated to a controlled temperature, creating a vapor with minimal combustion, meaning you inhale much less smoke. For marijuana users, vaporizers have become popular as the plant material can be heated to a specific temperature — usually between 185 and 210 degrees Celsius — allowing just the THC containing vapor to be extracted.
For e-cigarettes, using a liquid solution instead of dried tobacco, has become popular; this e-liquid contains water, nicotine, a base and occasionally flavourings, and vaporizes at a much lower temperature. But this is where things get tricky.
The “e-liquid” contains a base similar to that used in cosmetics and food which helps maintain moisture without creating sogginess. One common base called propylene glycol, which is also used in theatrical smoke, is known to cause irritation to the eyes and respiratory infections.