The Healthiest Way to Smoke Weed: What You Need to Know

Even with all the exciting, high-tech ways to access cannabis, one method continues to be the OG way of consuming: Smoking.

That’s because even in this day and age—when tinctures, edibles, and other formats are gaining in popularity—nothing really compares with lighting up a fat joint and kicking with friends and loved ones.

But that raises a question. Given what we know about inhaling smoke, is there a healthier way to smoke weed? Keep reading for the answer to that question and more, taking a deep dive into the world of smoking, vaping, and dabbing and comparing what impact each might have on your lungs and airways.

Are you ready? Let’s get rolling.

The Major Benefits of a Classic Consumption Method

It’s no great mystery why smoking weed in a joint or pipe remains so popular. Simple, easy, and fast-acting, smoking’s got a lot of upsides going for it. And for those who love the flavor of premium, California-grown flower, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Smoking Hits Quickly

Let’s dive a little deeper into the idea of “fast-acting.” The delay before you feel the effects of cannabis is known as “onset time,” and it’s a major reason why smoking remains so popular.

With smoked cannabis, onset time is typically measured in terms of minutes, with 10 often cited as a maximum. That means that whether you enjoy it from a joint, a pipe, or some other smoking or vaping device, you’ll feel the effects quickly.

Smoking Has Relatively Good Bioavailability

Another less-known variable is called “bioavailability.” In simple terms, it’s the proportion of cannabis (or any other substance) that actually enters the circulation to have an active effect, and there is a lot of variability when it comes to the bioavailability of smoked cannabis.

Because smoking methods, pipes, and joints can all deliver differing amounts of cannabinoids, the actual bioavailability is believed to vary from as low as 2% to as high as 56%. But on average, according to one report, when we smoke weed from a joint or standard hand pipe, the bioavailability is roughly 30%, peaking in your bloodstream in 3 to 10 minutes.

So, to sum up, smoked cannabis has a quick onset, and our bodies can make use of a relatively decent proportion of the cannabinoids consumed.

The Safest Way to Smoke Weed: How Do Joints Stack Up?

So…is a joint a safe way to smoke weed? As with many topics in the cannabis world, that’s a personal question. And it’s a great prompt to examine an enduring myth about cannabis smoke: That it’s “not bad” or even “good” for us. The truth, unfortunately, is a little more complicated.

Some people tolerate cannabis smoke with seemingly no problems at all, while others find it irritating. While the smoke produced by cannabis combustion is generally considered safer than the smoke produced by tobacco combustion, that’s not to say it’s entirely risk-free. Even when it comes from cannabis, smoke produces by-products such as tar, benzene, toluene, and ammonia, and these can tend to irritate the airways and lungs over time.

What about using a cigarette-style filter on joints or blunts?

While there’s little direct research on this specific question, scientists have devoted quite a bit of effort into studying the effects of filters on cigarettes themselves.

Currently, the consensus seems to be that while standard cigarette filters do a reasonable job of removing carcinogens and other irritants from smoke, activated charcoal filters rolled into joints or blunts may be a more effective option. While they do slightly reduce the amount of THC that passes to the lungs, they more than make up for it in terms or removing the combustion by-products that are best avoided.

Are Bongs and Water Pipes a Healthier Way to Smoke?

Once you’ve heard the burbling of a bong, you’ll never forget it! While far less portable than a joint or pipe, the bong remains another time-honored way to enjoy cannabis. For many fans, part of the draw is the perception that drawing the cannabis smoke through water results in a cleaner, less irritating smoke. But is this actually true?

In one medical review, it was found that while smoking through a bong is generally believed to remove greater amounts of tar than other methods, in truth, bongs remove more THC than they do tar! That said, they do remove what are known as gas-phase intoxicants, including carbon dioxide, ammonia, and nitrosamines, none of which you want in your lungs.

What About Dab Rigs?

While the investment in a high-quality dab rig puts some users off, there’s no question that dabbing is the most potent (and for some, most thrilling) way to interact with cannabis. But how do dabbing rigs stack up against other inhalation methods?

As it turns out, these devices—which work solely with very high-potency cannabis concentrates—deliver truly admirable bioavailability. One study found that with dabbing, bioavailability was somewhere in the 75% region.

That said, there are potential drawbacks. For one thing, because dab rigs are typically set to operate at higher temperatures than ordinary vapes, the process is arguably closer to combustion than vaping—and it’s the by-products of combustion that tend to be most irritating to the lungs and airways.

But there’s another caution that has nothing to do with inhaled irritants. Because of the incredibly high bioavailability of dabs, they greatly increase the potential for the negative side effects that may come along with consuming too much THC, such as dizziness, anxiety, and paranoia, for example.

That’s a major reason that we always caution those working with concentrates (or any cannabis products) to start with a small amount and go slowly when consuming more.

What If the Healthiest Way to Smoke Weed…Wasn’t Actually Smoking It

There’s one ingestion method very similar to smoking we haven’t talked about yet: vaping.

When you vape cannabis through avape pen or purpose-made portable or tabletop vaporizer, you’re not actually smoking it. Instead, the heating element brings the cannabis—typically a distillate or similar concentrate—to the temperature at which the cannabinoids and terpenes volatize into a cool mist.

What’s the benefit? For one thing, such devices remove any possibility of inhaling burned plant matter, in turn removing many potential irritants produced by combustion.And for another, vaping actually delivers cannabis more efficiently to our lungs, with far less tar than smoking. According to one study, when smoking weed from a joint or a standard pipe, the ratio of cannabinoids to tar is roughly 1:27. Vaping delivers a roughly 1:10 ratio, a comparable reduction in tar of nearly two-thirds.

Remember that roughly 30% THC bioavailability figure for smoked cannabis? By way of comparison, the bioavailability of vaped THC generally falls in the neighborhood of 50%.

3 Healthy Alternatives to Smoking and Vaping

Based on what we’ve shared thus far, it’s clear that each ingestion method we’ve discussed has pluses and minuses associated with it. But of course, there are plenty of other ways to enjoy cannabis that have nothing to do with smoking or even vaping it! A few of the most popular include:


Encompassing everything from tempting chocolates to tangy gummies and even iced teas and sodas, cannabis edibles are one of the most popular ingestion methods. While the average bioavailability of edibles is relatively low at 4% – 20% and the onset can take upwards of 2 hours, many people experience the effects as more intense and long-lasting than with inhaled cannabis.


Tinctures are a convenient and discreet way to take precise amounts of cannabis. And especially when taken sublingually (under the tongue), they offer a great compromise between fast onset (roughly 15 – 30 minutes) and high bioavailability—approaching 90% by some estimations!


Don’t forget that cannabinoids work as well outside our bodies as inside them! With the exception of some transdermal patches, topicals don’t actually impart any euphoria or intoxication. Still, they’re a quick, efficient, and long-lasting way to deliver the healing power of cannabis right where it’s needed to sore muscles and joints.

Explore All the Consumption Methods at Mankind

There are so many ways to enjoy our favorite leafy green. The question is: What is the healthiest way to smoke weed based on your needs and goals? However you decide to interact with cannabis, we hope you’ve now got some useful information to help make an informed choice that’s healthy, supportive, and sustainable to your overall goals.

Speaking of which, if you’d like to explore San Diego’s best selection of premium cannabis, our new cannabis delivery service makes it easier than ever to get the exact cannabis products you want, searchable by categories such as pain-free, creative, blissful, and more. Just click here for details, or check out our delivery menu to get the ball rolling.

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