A Scientist Answers Some of Your Questions About Vaping
Questions about vaping are rampant these days. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed 380 cases of lung illness and six deaths linked to vaping nicotine and/or Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) nationwide, including one in Southern California.
The CDC warns simply don’t vape. And if you do, then definitely don’t buy vape products off the street. At this point, President Trump’s proposed ban on flavored e-cigarettes doesn’t hold much weight.
The illnesses and deaths from vaping are not linked to any specific apparatus, product or substance. Illicit cannabis vape products, however, seem to be raising red flags. These products may contain a number of contaminants and potentially hazardous ingredients such as Vitamin E acetate.
On the other hand, legal cannabis vape products in California go through stringent testing protocols. Legal/licensed dispensaries can sell only tested products to consumers.
Sonoma Lab Works in Santa Rosa, California tests cannabis products (vaping products included) for regulatory compliance and quality assurance.
“Testing services we provide cover pesticide residues, residual solvents and processing chemicals, microbiological contaminants and pathogens, heavy metals, mycotoxins, terpene, cannabinoid profiles, and a quantitative flavonoid panel,” says Luke Khoury, the company’s Senior Scientist. “There should be no mystery as to what is inside of a product, especially if it was created for medical or therapeutic use.”
Khoury recently shared some of the ins and outs of vaping with Aloft Magazine, including what’s inside your vape cartridge.
How does vaping work?
Khoury: “Most vape batteries function by applying voltage to a heating element made from certain materials, like ceramic. That voltage transfers heat to the oil inside the vape cartridge. When the cannabis oil is vaporized, you can draw it into your lungs.
What you inhale are all the vaporized compounds that have boiling points below the temperature generated by the voltage. It sounds complicated, but don’t overthink it.”
What do you inhale when you vape?
Khoury: “A variety of different oils from various manufacturing processes end up in your lungs. Highly purified cannabis oil, also known as distillate, is most commonly used to fill vape cartridges. The oil combined with either cannabis-derived or botanically-derived terpenes provides that cannabis flavor. Other variations of vape products may include hydrocarbon extracts, CO2 extracts or a mixture. Distillate provides a more full flavor, usually distinct for each strain.
The chemical contents of each product vary considerably depending on the manufacturing processes. The final product also depends on the developer’s intention for the experience for the consumer. Cannabis is no one-size-fits-all experience. That goes for vape products, too.”
What do you exhale when you vape cannabis?
Khoury: “When you exhale after vaping cannabis oil, cannabinoids, terpenes and other volatilized compounds still exist in the smoke. They don’t fully deposit in the lungs and become absorbed. This is why secondhand smoke is a legitimate issue. Yes, even with vaping.”
Is it safe to vape around children?
Khoury: “Exposing children to substances meant for adults above the age of 21 years old is simply not wise. We all have the responsibility to be considerate of others and our surroundings when consuming cannabis. Tobacco cigarette smoke isn’t the only second-hand smoke that people may be sensitive to or bothered by.
That being said, there is insufficient data to make any claim regarding the safety and health effects of vaping cannabis oil around children.”
Do the health benefits of cannabis outweigh the concerns when it comes to vaping?
Khoury: “Unfortunately, there is simply a lack of extensive research and thorough peer review regarding vaping cannabis oil. At this point, there is no way to discern what is a ‘good’ or ‘safe’ amount of consumption with vaping. The onus of responsibility is on each of us. Educate yourself. Ask questions. Do your research. Reach out to qualified medical practitioners. Gain an understanding of the health risks and benefits that may arise from vaping cannabis oil.
Luckily, international research groups from legalized countries are on it. They have made great progress in examining the potential therapeutic value in cannabis and its constituents. So, more information is becoming available by the day.”
Is there any cause for concern for those who vape regularly?
Khoury: “Due to prohibitive federal policies, the lack of available data simply doesn’t support health claims when it comes to vaping cannabis oil. The jury is still out when it comes to whether vaping is safe or harmful to any degree.
Over the last several years, multiple U.S. states have created legal pathways for innovative cannabis product development. That’s great. The industry is making steady progress. However, growth and product development have outpaced research. Medical and toxicological science will catch up. It’s just a matter of time.”
“Hang in there!” Khoury added. “The legal cannabis industry, as a whole, is still in its early stages. Many things have yet to be determined. Again, do your research. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s your health and your body. As research progresses, so will your access to the information you need to make informed decisions about what’s best for you.”