Smoking Hemp vs. Tobacco: Which One is More Harmful?

Smoking Hemp vs. Tobacco

Trying to cut all tobacco out of your life? Since the arrival of hemp pre-rolls, more and more people have found the ideal way to replace tobacco.

First things first, smoke from both tobacco and hemp can irritate your lungs, and isn’t considered “good for you.” All smoking is bad for your lungs, including vaping. 

But, for all of us who don’t want to give up on the habit of smoking, it’s beneficial to know which type of smoke is “healthier.” If you want to put smoking traditional cigarettes to rest once and for all, take a look at a safer alternative — smoking hemp. 

Last Update: June 29, 2023

Article Summary

  • Hemp, grown specifically for its CBD-rich flowers can be used in a smokable form as cigarettes or pre-rolls. 
  • Tobacco is the most well-known smoking substance on the market that contains nicotine. 
  • Tobacco through cigarette smoking is more harmful to the lungs because it contains nicotine. Nicotine is a highly addictive and potentially lethal alkaloid responsible for millions of deaths worldwide.  
  • The hemp flower, on the other hand, is rich in cannabinoids like CBD, CBG, THC, and more and an array of naturally occurring terpenes. 
  • While tobacco smoke contains over 4000 chemicals and around 60 known carcinogens, smoking CBD flower releases over 2000 compounds, including cannabinoids, nitrogenous compounds, amino acids, sugars, terpenes, hydrocarbons, and simple fatty acids.
  • Hemp, or CBD flower is nicotine-free and low in THC, which makes it a better alternative for smoking than traditional cigarettes.
  • Both smokable CBD flower and tobacco are legal in the US at the federal level. Traditional cigarettes cannot be sold to anyone under 21, while CBD flower is banned in a few states.  

What is Hemp?

Hemp is botanically known as Cannabis sativa L. and is part of the Cannabaceae family. Native to central Asia, the hemp plant is one of the fastest-growing plants on the planet and can be used for industrial and medicinal purposes.

Hemp grown today is specifically bred to yield CBD-rich hemp flower and maximize the levels of cannabinoids and terpenes. Industrial hemp and CBD hemp are grown differently because the purpose of the former is to grow healthy fiber for creating rope, textiles, paper, and much more. 

So, when talking about smokable hemp, we mean the CBD-rich type of hemp that’s specifically grown to produce high levels of CBD and less than 0.3% THC. The smokable part of this plant is CBD hemp flower, which is the buds of the female plant that are abundant in cannabinoid-producing trichomes.  

What is Tobacco?

Tobacco is an umbrella name for several plants in the Nicotiana genus. Native to several continents across the world, tobacco has a long history of cultivation and use. 

There are over 70 tobacco species known, but the main commercial crop is of the N. tabacum variant. In some parts of the world, a more potent variant is used, known as N. rustica

The part of the tobacco plant used for smoking are the dried leaves. They can be used for smoking cigarettes, cigars, filling up a pipe or a shisha. Tobacco leaves can also be consumed by chewing and dipping.  

The tobacco plant is an ancient trade product valued for its natural nicotine content. Nicotine, a potent stimulant alkaloid, is the reason why tobacco is so highly addictive.      


Chemical Differences Between Hemp and Tobacco 

The main difference between hemp and tobacco is in their chemical constituents. While hemp is rich in cannabinoids and terpenes, tobacco contains nicotine and a few terpenes worth mentioning. 

Cannabinoids vs. Nicotine 

Isolated from tobacco leaves in 1828 by Posselt and Reimann, nicotine is a highly addictive stimulant that’s quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. 

While a person can’t overdose on nicotine by smoking cigarettes, CDC data shows that 50 to 60 mg of nicotine can be a deadly dose for a 150 pound adult.

Small doses of nicotine stimulate the brain, while higher doses cause brain depression. This substance increases blood pressure and heart rate and may be correlated to thrombosis in smokers [1].

On top of that, tobacco smoke contains over 4000 chemicals and around 60 known carcinogens. Half of these compounds are found naturally in the tobacco leaf, while the other half is produced when tobacco is burned [2].

Cannabinoids, on the other hand, are beneficial chemical compounds that naturally occur in the hemp plant. 

They interact with the receptors in the human body that are part of the endocannabinoid system and modify sleep, metabolism and immune system response. 

When smoked, CBD flower releases over 2000 compounds, including cannabinoids, nitrogenous compounds, amino acids, sugar, terpenes, hydrocarbons, and simple fatty acids [3]. 

Cannabidiol (CBD) is the most abundant cannabinoid in hemp flower and is considered therapeutic by nature. The CBD flower contains other primary and secondary cannabinoids, including cannabigerol (CBG), cannabichromene (CBC), cannabinol (CBN). These compounds are non-intoxicating by nature, but have been investigated for their beneficial properties. 

In addition, the hemp plant is packed with an array of terpenes, including pinene, myrcene, humulene, and caryophyllene. 

Research shows that terpenes also show a range of beneficial properties, but most importantly, work in synergy to enhance the effects of cannabinoids. This theory about the potential cannabinoid-terpene synergy is known as the entourage effect.    

Hemp is Nicotine Free

As we’ve discussed, nicotine is a well-known addictive agent that affects the acetylcholine receptors in the brain [4]. 

Because hemp doesn’t contain nicotine, it’s not an addictive plant. Research even shows that CBD in hemp can be beneficial in helping people wean off addictive substances. This means that smoking a hemp pre-roll or cigarette won’t cause you to experience withdrawal if you suddenly decide to stop [5].  

Although CBD flower contains THC, the main intoxicating compound in cannabis, its presence in trace amounts is beneficial and hasn’t been proven to cause addiction. With that said, high levels of THC consumed regularly may affect cognitive abilities in the short and long run. 

Because of this CBD flower offers a great alternative to tobacco. Smoking any substance is harmful to the lungs, but there’s a huge difference between smoking hemp vs. smoking tobacco. 

Unlike traditional cigarettes, hemp flower helps the user avoid the harmful effects of nicotine. Due to its low THC levels, it also helps to avoid intoxication that would lead to side effects.  

Differences Between Smoking Hemp vs. Tobacco

The tobacco industry is experiencing a gradual decline over the years, as more people are finding viable alternatives to cigarettes. 

Hemp vs. Tobacco: Effects

Smoking hemp and tobacco can both bring enjoyable effects. Nicotine in tobacco reaches the brain within 10 seconds after entering the body. After receiving the substance, the body creates a buzz of energy and pleasure because it releases adrenaline. After the buzz fades, users want to get the same sensation, so they reach for another cigarette. 

Hemp flower is known to create a calm, relaxed, focused state of mind, depending on the strain. The cannabinoid and terpene profile of the strain work in synergy to energize the user or make them feel sleepy. A user who smoked a hemp pre-roll can be satisfied with one a day without having cravings if they decide to stop. 

Hemp vs. Tobacco: Medical Benefits & Uses

Here is something we all know: tobacco smoke is really bad for your health. According to research, tobacco is probably responsible for more deaths on the plant than any other herb. 

Worldwide, tobacco smoking is the culprit for over 3 million deaths per year, and these numbers are expected to exceed 10 million by 2030 [1]. 

Some “benefits” of tobacco can include lowering the risk of Parkinson’s and preventing obesity. However, “even established inverse associations cannot be used as a rationale for cigarette smoking,“ due to its significant cancerogenic effects. [6]Hemp, on the other hand, is rich in various compounds, such as CBD, THC (less than 0.3%), and terpenes. When working in synergy, these compounds increase the efficiency and healing benefits of hemp. 

Due to these compounds, the plant presents [7]:

  • Anti-inflammatory properties
  • Sedating effects
  • Potent analgesic (pain reducing) effects 
  • Antidepressant properties
  • Antipsychotic effects

Hemp may be used to relieve symptoms of:

  • Anxiety 
  • Depression
  • Sleeping problems
  • Chronic pain
  • PTSD
  • Substance abuse
  • Nicotine addiction 
  • Obesity

CBD May Help You Quit Smoking

According to 2023 research from Washington State University, CBD may help people stop smoking. The researchers have found that CBD could inhibit the metabolism of nicotine by influencing the enzyme CYP2A6 [8]. 

The enzyme CYP2A6 metabolizes 70% of nicotine and relatively low doses of CBD can help inhibit it. As a result, CBD may help reduce the cravings for nicotine. 

CBD is known in the scientific community as a non-addictive compound, so replacing traditional cigarettes with this cannabinoid will not mean replacing one substance with another.  

Hemp Smoke is Better For You Lungs

A 2021 study found that *premium* hemp cigarettes are safer for the lungs compared to tobacco. They showed consistently lower concentrations in mainstream smoke than traditional cigarettes. But, the authors of the study concluded that this depends on the brand of hemp cigarettes. 

Regarding marijuana, research shows conflicting results. Some studies have found that marijuana is not as dangerous to the lungs as tobacco smoke, while others have found that marijuana may cause certain, more severe types of damage to the lungs than cigarettes [9, 10]. 

Smoking Hemp vs. Tobacco: Risks & Side Effects 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that “cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States.” 

Each year, more people die from smoking than illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, HIV, and firearm-related injuries combined. Nicotine is the addictive chemical in tobacco.

The risks of long-term nicotine use can be fatal as smokers are more likely than nonsmokers to develop:

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Lung cancer
  • Asthma

Nicotine can also cause:

  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Change in taste

Compared to cigarettes, hemp doesn’t have such serious risks. In fact, smoking hemp may help people dealing with pain, high blood pressure, and other ailments, instead of being a danger to the user’s health. 

Hemp is not going to get you high and is not addictive. The biggest risk of taking hemp is combining it with other medications because of possible interaction with CBD. It is not recommended to take hemp while pregnant or breastfeeding. 

Other than that, hemp and hemp-derived products are generally considered safe and show minor side effects, including:

  • Nausea 
  • Mild anxiety 
  • Dizziness 
  • Changes in mood and appetite 
  • Diarrhea 

Legal Status of Tobacco vs. Hemp

Both hemp and tobacco are legal plants in the United States. 

Under legislation “Tobacco 21,” passed December 2019, it’s illegal for all retailers to sell any tobacco product to adults under 21. Most states prohibit tobacco smoking in public and professional workspaces. 

With the signing of the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp became a commercial agricultural crop. Licensed growers, producers, and processors can now cultivate, handle, and process hemp and hemp-derived products across the country. 

Each state has passed laws to regulate the cultivation and sale of hemp and hemp-derived products with less than 0.3% THC by dry weight. Therefore, some states allow the sale of hemp pre-rolls and smokable CBD flower to people over 18 or 21, while a few states have banned smokable hemp altogether. 

Is Smoking Both Hemp and Tobacco Safe?

No, smoking both hemp and tobacco is not safe because it exposes you to the harmful effects of both herbs. A new study found that tobacco smokers who smoke cannabis may experience greater damage to the respiratory system. 

Spliffs are hemp CBD pre-rolls that have tobacco and hemp flower mixed together in a rolling paper. Some people add tobacco to their cannabis smokes to enhance the “high,” but UCL research shows that this combination doesn’t increase intoxication. In fact, adding tobacco to cannabis doesn’t affect the “high,” and can have a negative impact on memory and heart. 

Smoking Hemp vs. Tobacco: Which is Better?

Tobacco: Pros and Cons


  • Tobacco is carcinogenic; it can cause lung, mouth, esophagus, and other types of cancer. 
  • Tobacco is toxic, pollutes, and damages the environment.
  • Nicotine in tobacco is addictive.
  • Tobacco — mostly through smoking cigarettes — kills more than 480,000 Americans each year
  • Cigarettes cause premature wrinkles. 
  • Tobacco is expensive.
  • Smoking causes bad breath and stained teeth.


  • Tobacco production is good for the economy.
  • Tobacco may have a role in preventing Parkinson’s, obesity, and doesn’t have a connection to some cancer types.

Hemp: Pros and Cons


  • Smoking hemp is not healthy for your lungs. So, vaping, edibles, oils, and other methods are great alternatives to smoking. 
  • Compounds in hemp, such as cannabidiol (CBD), can interact with prescription medications.


  • Hemp production is great for the economy. 
  • Hemp is the only plant that could eliminate foreign oil dependency and save the forest.
  • Hemp has healing effects. 
  • Hemp doesn’t pollute the environment.
  • Hemp has a very short growing cycle. 
  • Hemp can be consumed in different ways that are not harmful to the body. 
  • Hemp flower helps with anxiety, pain, depression, sleeping problems, etc. 
  • Hemp flower doesn’t cause addiction.
  • Hemp doesn’t have severe side-effects. 
  • Hemp flower doesn’t get you high.
  • Hemp smoke is not as bad as tobacco.

How to Smoke Hemp vs. Tobacco

Depending on the method of smoking you prefer, you should first get your cigarettes or pipe. These are the steps for cigarettes:

  • Put the cigarette up to your lips without passing your teeth.
  • Lit the cigarette.
  • Suck the smoke with a long, steady intake into the lungs.
  • Inhale through your mouth drawing air into the lungs.

To get the most benefits of hemp into your lungs and prevent choking, try these steps before smoking hemp:

  • Prepare your blunt, or buy organic hemp pre-rolls from Mr. Hemp Flower. 
  • Take a moment before inhaling the remedy into your lungs.
  • Take fresh air to help you hit the smoke deep into the lungs.
  • Inhale slowly and consistently, filling your lungs with smoke. 

Hemp Wraps vs. Tobacco Wraps

For better user experience, companies have created hemp blunt wraps. Differences and similarities between hemp and tobacco wraps:

  • Hemp wraps come in different flavors, but fewer options than normal blunts.
  • Hemp wraps burn evenly.
  • Hemp wraps don’t canoe. 
  • It is more difficult to roll a hemp wrap than a tobacco wrap. 

Things to Consider When Buying Hemp for Smoking

When buying hemp for smoking you need to consider a couple of things, including:

High CBD Hemp Strain

Make sure your hemp flower contains high levels of CBD and a rich terpene profile. The optimal CBD levels of high CBD strains are around 14-16%.  

Organic Hemp

Your hemp needs to be 100% organic to avoid any chemicals. Mr. Hemp Flower only sources organic hemp from licensed USA farms that have more than 5 years of experience.  

Legal THC Levels

Make sure your hemp comes from reliable manufacturers with THC levels of 0.3% or lower. All hemp strains that are in these legal limits, are protected under the 2018 Farm Bill and won’t get you in trouble. 

High CBD Hemp Strains 

Try to avoid buying strains with CBD content below 10%. Mr. Hemp Flower offers you organically grown CBD flowers with 14-16% CBD content. 

High CBD Hemp Flower for Smoking

FAQs on Smoking Hemp vs. Tobacco

Yes, hemp cigarettes make you feel calm, uplifted, and energized, depending on the strain used. They are made of ground CBD flower, so they give the sensation of CBD hemp flower. Hemp cigarettes can be less harsh than CBD flower when quality hemp is used. Some people like that they have a slight sweetness to them.

Many cannabis users have found that hemp flower tastes similarly to marijuana when smoked, but without the intoxicating effects. When smoked, CBD flower can have a sweet flavor ranging from earthy and woodsy to fruity and slightly spicy. 

The only part of hemp that can be used for smoking is CBD flower rich in cannabinoids and terpenes. Industrial hemp is not suitable for smoking

If you smoke too much CBD hemp flower, you’ll likely experience the adverse effects of CBD “overdose”. When consuming too much CBD, you may experience diarrhea, vomiting, and drowsiness.

When inhaled, CBD hemp flower brings immediate relief from aches and pains. In people dealing with anxiety, the CBD may be fast-acting and provide beneficial effects.

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