A vaporizer is a device that is designed to heat plant material with the intention of vaporizing the aromatic substances contained within. This is contrary to what burning plant material does, as no combustion takes place. Because of this, exposure to tar and carcinogenic by-products is significantly reduced, which means that vaporizers are generally a much safer approach than smoking.

Vaporizers employ two primary methods of heating the plant material: convection and conduction. While the devices do differ to some degree, they do employ many of the same principles and similar technology. Most vaporizers require a way to contain the vapor, be it through a balloon/bag or some sort of glass housing. In addition to housing the vapor, most will also contain a delivery method through which to inhale the aromatic vapor. Most commonly, the user will use a long tube in order to help cool off the vapor, although other methods can also be used, including exposure to ice or water.