Vaping. It’s been a highly debated topic in the past few years that we, as a country, haven’t been able to shake. While there is a load of clutter in this field with everything from berry-flavored nicotine to nondescript weed vapes, the question still stands: Is there a safe way to vape? Read more on our thoughts below.
The tobacco industry is lauding a smoke free future. It is assumed that vaping is a less harmful method of ingesting either tobacco (nicotine) or cannabis or tobacco compared to smoking. Vape devices heat rather than combust (burn) the flower or oil concentrate, the result is vapor rather than smoke which is then inhaled. Most vape devices require a concentrated mix of cannabis oil and other additives such as flavorings or thinning agents so that the oil releases vapor when heated.
The vape crisis
However, as of February 2020, a total of 2,807 cases have been recorded by the CDC of people who have been hospitalized across all 50 states due to vape related complications. 68 deaths have been confirmed, including the 1st ever THC related death.
We know the cause
Rather than the cannabinoids themselves, we are learning that the cause is due to the toxic effects of other ingredients that are added to the oils. Concerns about the ingredients used and the toxic effect these have are clear. Ingredients used for thinning and thickening the vape juice as well as flavorings are to blame. These ingredients are prevalent in the illegal vape products on the market but they are not exclusive to the illicit market.
Tested products include examples of incredibly harmful chemicals such as Pine Rosin, which has seriously toxic effects when inhaled. Used for thickening the oil and blamed by the CDC for the majority of lung issues is vitamin E acetate. Found in the lungs of suffering patients Anne Schuchat (CDC) stated there is “direct evidence of vitamin E acetate at the primary site of injury within the lungs”.
Another huge culprit is propylene glycol. The FDA has deemed Propylene Glycol (PG or PEG 400) safe for human ingestion and topical application but not for heating and inhalation. Used for thinning the oil concentrate and found in nicotine and cannabis vape cartridges, at high temperatures, PG converts the oil into lung destroying polymers and carbonyls. Carbonyls are cancer-causing chemicals that include formaldehyde, which has been linked to pregnancy issues including miscarriages. Additional allergic reactions are also common.
Cheap supplies of vape devices are readily available through Alibaba and other unregulated market places. Poorly made devices often don’t work at all – you may actually be thankful. Those that malfunction and heat the oil to a temperature that is higher than specified are quite literally killing people. Even legal vapes have the potential for heating the oil to carcinogenic levels, especially button hold ones where the user may be heating too much causing ‘smoldering’.
An alternative to propylene glycol as a base for diluting cannabis oil is vegetable glycerin. The function of VG as a thickening agent is less popular in the industry as it is less efficient than PG therefore you get less of a hit. To note again, both of these agents have been declared safe for human consumption but NOT by administration through heating and inhalation. Saying that, VG did not produce detectable amounts of toxins when studied.
Safe to eat but not safe to inhale. Flavor compounds on both nicotine and cannabis vape juices, which are FDA approved for eating, are also registering as exceptionally hazardous substances when heated. Diacetyl, cinnamon Ceylon, and acetyl propionyl are known to be cytotoxic agents when heated and responsible for respiratory illness.
Is it safe to vape?
Fundamentally we don’t know as the long and short term effects are unknown. We do know that flavorings and other propellant ingredients are toxic. Listed ingredients are hard to find if labeled at all. Unflavoured VG vape juices are probably safer but if you are using a cheap device with a malfunctioning heating system then you are gambling with serious health risks.
How can I protect myself whilst vaping?
- Only buy tested, regulated, and legal cannabis products.
- Avoid all illegal vape cartridges
- Throw out any products containing Propylene Glycol/ vitamin E acetate/ Pine Rosin/ Diacetyl/ cinnamon ceylon/ acetyl propionyl/ added flavours.
- Throw out any vape oils that don’t have the ingredients listed
- Take shorter sessions on the vape so the coil doesn’t become too hot
- Run your vape at the lowest temperature setting to avoid heating chemicals to combustible levels.
- Chuck malfunctioning devices
Don’t vape CBD cartridges
Unfortunately the contaminants exist in nicotine, high THC and hemp CBD vape concentrates. Project CBD research associate Eric Geisterfer conducted a survey of cannabis and CBD hemp vape oil cartridges. Many products were found to include propylene glycol.
What’s the alternative?
Vape natural. An alternative that does not produce landfill waste and gives the user a cleaner experience over smoking is dry herb vaping. Dry herb vapes such as Omura, Volcano, and Pax have developed methods of heating rather than burning cannabis flower. The flower is placed in either a small oven or paper cartridges inserted. This is then heated to the desired temperature for activating the cannabinoids (THC 315 degrees/ CBD 356degrees). As there are no added ingredients you don’t have to worry about toxic chemicals that you find in oil concentrate cartridges – as long as your cannabis is clean.
A more mellow sensation than smoking, dry herb vapes is the solution for us at oHHo. We don’t want to add to the landfill with plastic and glass cartridges. We don’t want to adulterate our cannabis with nasty chemicals. We don’t want anything to do with a product that is unregulated and, even when it is, has huge associated health concerns. We don’t want to get involved in an industry that very much sits in the same park as the tobacco industry. Alternatively try tinctures, edibles, and topicals.