By Luke Sumpter

It’s no secret that a plethora of pseudoscientific claims continue to circulate in the international cannabis community. These misunderstandings span numerous topics and areas of interest. Some of the most persistent include the indica vs sativa debate and that cannabis addiction doesn’t exist. Alongside these nebulous topics, many weed users are under the impression that taking bigger hits results in more potent effects. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about the accuracy of this claim. Let’s get myth-busting!

Big Hits: Does It Matter How Much Weed Smoke You Inhale?

If you started smoking cannabis at a relatively young age, you’ll be all too familiar with the competitive behaviours that frequently manifest during smoking sessions. Growing the strongest bud, rolling the biggest joint, blowing the biggest smoke ring, and knowing the lyrics to every Snoop Dogg track ever produced all push fellow smokers several rungs higher up the herbal hierarchy. Of course, taking the biggest hit in the room, and holding it in for the longest, also separates the alphas from the betas, right?

Flaunting aside, the act of taking and holding in big hits—ideally without so much as the faintest cough—has embedded itself within the smoking ritual as a means of preventing wastefulness. Many smokers will raise their eyebrows if they see you exhale too quickly. In their eyes, you just prematurely released many precious THC molecules before they had the chance to enter your bloodstream.

Before we delve into whether big hits are important when smoking cannabis, we need to attempt to grasp the definition of a “big hit”. As opposed to taking a standard puff, a big hit involves pulling on a joint, bong, pipe, or vape in an aggressive or sustained manner. The time for which a smoker holds in their hit also contributes to its size. Taking a monumental inhalation and releasing it half a second later would certainly reduce the magnitude of the hit in question.

So, we’ve roughly laid out the characteristics of a big hit. It involves a deep and sustained inhalation paired with a relatively long breath hold. Now, let’s compare large against little.

Big Small Hits

Are Big or Small Hits Better?

If you’re looking for a simple answer to this question, know that one doesn’t exist; many variables surround this topic. Below, we cover the key considerations to get to the bottom of this disputed matter within the world of weed.

Does Holding a Hit Matter?

So, in the quest to get as high as possible, should you hold in your hits?

As you can imagine, many scientists are too preoccupied with researching cures for diseases and reversing environmental damage to invest time, money, and lab space in finding the answer to this question. However, a duo from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Chicago appear to have had a penchant for this topic, publishing a paper[1] on their findings back in 1989.

The researchers suggest that cannabis users of the time tended to hold in hits for 10–15 seconds, believing that doing so would intensify the psychoactive effects of the herb. To get to the bottom of this urgent issue, they monitored the physiological, cognitive, and subjective effects of holding in a hit, dividing eight keen subjects into three breath-holding groups (0, 10, and 20 seconds), and controlling for the variables of number of puffs, puff volume, and post-puff inhalation. The scientists even made the effort to measure expired air carbon monoxide levels before and after smoking.

This study makes it apparent that the golden age of cannabis inhalation science has passed, but the results of the study remain with us. It turns out, according to this single experiment, that holding in hits makes little or no difference. When weighing up whether you should take big or small hits, know that holding it in doesn’t particularly matter.

1. Duration of the Smoking Session

So, we’ve settled the matter of holding in hits, at least as far as the available research will allow. Now, let’s turn our attention toward the quantity of smoke inhaled during a single hit. This largely boils down to the circumstances of the smoking session.

If you’re sitting comfortably on your couch, surrounded by fellow smokers, equipped with satiating snacks, and bathed in syncopated sound waves, then why rush? You’re going nowhere anytime soon, and therefore have no obligation to fill your lungs just short of bursting every time you pick up a joint. You're going to reach the roach and inhale the same amount of THC whether you achieve maximum lung capacity with every hit or opt to puff away at a more passive pace.

However, this all changes if you’ve got places to go. If you’re popping out on your lunch break, or your bus is due to pull up any second, you don’t have time for small hits. In the interest of striking your endocannabinoid system with a brief yet heavy blow, it’ll help to get the biggest hit your lungs can handle in the moment.

As you can see, the dogma of heavy hits quickly dissipates when you consider the scenario.

2. THC Content

The THC content of your herb will also dictate if big hits are worth it. Taking a small puff from a joint containing powerhouse flowers with 25% THC will get you just as high as multiple monstrous inhalations with flowers possessing a measly value of 10%. Once you have a good estimation of your own tolerance and the THC content of your favorite strains, you won’t always need to take huge hits to feel the effect you’re after.

3. Personal Preference

Above all else, taking big or small hits all boils down to personal preference. Do away with expectation and simply do what works best for you at the time. Fill your lungs to the brim if you like that harsh sensation, or take smaller hits if you enjoy taking your time and savouring the terpenes.

Big small hits

What Are the Risks of Taking Big Hits?

If you prefer taking big hits when smoking weed, you should make yourself aware of the potential consequences. Lighting weed in a joint, blunt, or bong bowl, unsurprisingly, generates hot smoke. Small hits are enough to feel harsh on the lungs, but taking huge ones, consistently, can irritate the lungs and airways, increasing the chances of developing respiratory issues such as bronchitis. In the short term, you may also encounter bouts of nausea, discomfort, and dizziness that can ruin your high.

How to Take a Proper Hit of Cannabis

With the above in mind, how should you go about taking a hit of cannabis? There are no strict rules to abide by, but the advice below will help to facilitate a pleasant and consistent experience:

  1. Roll a joint in any way that you prefer. There are many different options and techniques to choose from, including backrolling, L-sheets, and even tulips. If you’re new to weed, just roll up a simple joint using a standard-sized rolling paper.
  2. Next, apply a flame to the end of your joint while inhaling lightly to get it to burn properly.
  3. Once lit, slowly and steadily draw from the roach to partially fill your mouth with smoke.
  4. After the initial draw, take a breath to inhale the smoke into your lungs.
  5. If it feels harsh, feel free to exhale immediately. If you can handle the sensation, hold it for a couple of seconds before exhaling.
  6. Repeat this process until you feel sufficiently high!

Taking a Hit of Marijuana vs Tobacco: What’s the Difference?

The main difference between the two is the active ingredient at play. Those smoking weed are primarily seeking the effects of THC, while tobacco smokers are after the effects of nicotine. However, you don’t often see cigarette smokers hold a hit for up to twenty seconds!

In general, cigarettes are less harsh, and they feature a filter that helps to remove tar and other chemicals. In contrast, joints use a cardboard roach that allows unfiltered smoke to enter the mouth and lungs.

Smoking tobacco or cannabis exposes users to the risks of respiratory health conditions, especially when used over long periods.

Bong Hits

What About Bong Hits?

Bongs are designed in a way that filters cannabis smoke using water. While this method of intake won’t automatically get you higher, it does allow you to build up a significant amount of smoke in the chamber, allowing you to inhale much bigger hits.

Do Bigger Bongs Get You Higher?

The size of the bong itself won’t necessarily get you higher. Instead, the amount of weed you place into the bowl and the THC content of your flowers will dictate the magnitude of effects you feel.

However, bigger bongs do allow users to gather up much more smoke within the smoke chamber before releasing the shotgun hole. If you’re a fan of huge hits, then you’ll get on better with a bigger bong.

Does Coughing Get You Higher?

No. This is another common but widely believed misconception. Many cannabis smokers experience momentary lightheadedness after coughing, which they mistake for an enhanced high as the effects of THC set in.

Why You Don’t Need Big Hits

You don’t need to take big hits when smoking weed unless you’re in a hurry and really want to get high. Additionally, you don’t need to hold hits in for more than a few seconds. THC rapidly diffuses across the membranes of lung cells and into the bloodstream. Holding in weed smoke for up to 10–20 seconds offers nothing more than diminishing returns. The available science on this topic remains relatively shallow, but it ultimately shows that holding in big hits makes little difference. The bottom line? Smoke weed in a way that appeals to you, and don’t buckle to unfounded trends and expectations.

External Resources:
  1. Breathhold duration and response to marijuana smoke - PubMed
This content is for educational purposes only. The information provided is derived from research gathered from external sources.

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