The vaping health crisis has dominated headlines for over a month with hundreds of reported cases of respiratory problems being linked to e-cigarette use. After six deaths with ties to vape use, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York state has announced that he will ban the sale of flavoured e-liquid. Following this announcement, US President Trump has stated that he intends to enstate a similar ban on a federal level.
E-cigarettes were previously marketed as a safer alternative to smoking, but in recent months after a spate of illnesses and deaths linked to the use of e-cigarettes this conception is being called into serious question.
While the controversy is centred on e-cigarettes and nicotine vapes, many of us who vape CBD are rightly concerned. CBD is most commonly used as a health supplement, so naturally, those that use it will be more health-conscious in general. A critical examination of whether vaping CBD safe is needed, but before we can do that we have to examine where the risks of e-cigarettes may lie.
E-cigarettes are built around a special heating system called an atomizer. This is a small cartridge that contains a cotton wick and a coil made of a conductive alloy. The vaporizer quickly heats the coil by running a charge through it, and the cotton wick draws e-liquid (also known as vape juice) towards the coil with capillary action, vaporizing it instantly. There has long been health concerns surrounding atomizers with some concerned that when the coils are reach high temperatures they may release heavy metals into the user’s lungs.
There are also reported cases of atomizers exploding, but most people don’t need to worry about this. Cases like this generally have more to do with DIY modifications and over-powered batteries than any intrinsic property.
Whether you vape or not, you’ll be familiar with the sugary clouds of vapor the devices produce. The vape industry has formulated every conceivable flavour, from menthol to cheesecake. These flavoured e-liquids are at the centre of the on-going media coverage thanks to state and potentially federal bans on them. You’d be forgiven for assuming the flavouring was the root of the health conditions reported on in the press, but it’s not. Flavoured e-liquids are accused of being appealing to underage users.
E-cigarettes have long been marketed as an alternative to traditional cigarettes, allowing smokers to gradually quit by switching to a less-harmful way of taking nicotine. The idea is that as you vape nicotine, you move away from the tars and carcinogens associated with smoking and then gradually reduce the nicotine concentration until you can fully quit.
Some presume that the nicotine in e-liquid is a factor in the health crisis, again this isn’t completely true. Juul, a popular brand known for its vape cartridge system. They have found themselves at the centre of the controversy and have received a lot of criticism for the high nicotine concentration of their products. The worry is that the slick marketing and design of Juul’s products attracts young people who quickly become addicted to the high concentration of nicotine. Again, the worry here is one of addiction rather than a direct cause-and-effect cycle of harm.
The New England Journal of Medicine found in a study of the vape crisis that many of those hospitalised admitted to using THC infused vape products. This may be a point of concern for CBD users, as THC is a sister-cannabinoid of the chemical. However, the study found that the risk in the THC products doesn’t come from the cannabinoid but from the particular thickening agent used, vitamin E acetate. This agent is used to reduce the concentration of THC needed in e-liquid and thus increase manufacturer’s profit margins. Vitamin E acetate may have side effects that could potentially cause health issues, however it is only found in illicit products found outside of established vape shops. The potential is that the unregulated nature of these products could be a key factor in the crisis.
What Does This Mean For CBD Vapers?
Vaping is a popular method of taking CBD, it is non-psychoactive, non-addictive, and above all convenient. However, is there any inherent health risks? At this point in time, it's hard to say, research is still being conducted into the root of the current health crisis, however, the CDC has advised that everyone abstain from vaping regardless. This is totally down to the uncertainty of the crisis.
As far as the above possible roots of the crisis go, only some apply to CBD oils, and as long as you buy your CBD from a reputable seller you should be able to avoid the risks associated with vitamin E acetate. The risk of heavy metal contamination is, unfortunately, linked directly to the make up of coils, however, the severity of this risk is still being explored, too.
Overall, you have about as much risk vaping CBD as you would any other form of vape liquids or e-liquid. What are the alternatives? CBD products can be administered in a huge range of ways, from tinctures to food-additives (though if you’re in the US these may be hard to find, as until recently they existed in a grey area as far as the FDA is concerned).
There is another option for those who aren’t willing to give up vaping altogether. Dry herb vaporizers are similar to e-cigarettes in a lot of ways. However they are distinct in how, and what they heat. Dry herb vapes work directly on dried CBD hemp and their heating systems are often ceramic heating elements, which have a proven track record of safety. The hemp doesn’t contain anything other than CBD, water, and other trace cannabinoids. It’s totally non-psychoactive. The vapes work in a similar manner to e-cigarettes, albeit with a short delay before they reach vaping temperature.
However, finding dried CBD hemp in the UK can be a bit tricky. Buying and Selling dried hemp flowers (the part of the hemp plant that contains CBD) is illegal in the UK and many parts of Europe. While it may not produce any of the psychoactive effects that marijuana does, the THC content in hemp plants can sometimes be over the 0.2% limit.
Another option is dabbing extracts like CBD Crystals and Isolates. These are exactly what they sound to be; CBD isolated. CBD Isolates will come in powder or crystal form and will have a much higher concentration of CBD as they are basically just pure CBD. For those who like to vape on the go, there are Dab Pens that have ceramic coils which heat up the Crystals into a vapour and give you an ultra-high concentration of CBD.
This doesn't leave those looking for healthier vaping alternatives with many options. As with many aspects of this health crisis, it is hard to make definitive claims, the crisis is ongoing and there is still a lot that remains unexplored. If you want to be totally safe, it is best to quit vaping CBD from an e-cigarette until researchers have come to some solid conclusions. From tinctures and tonics to extracts and edibles, there are many other ways to enjoy the effects of CBD that are proven to be safe.