Pen vs Pipe: Is Vape Healthy?
For the reader: My intent with this post is to provide information to you so that you can make an informed decision for your next purchase of a consumption device – pen or pipe.
Vape is healthy, right?
Wrong. Vape is at least as bad for you as smoking and is probably a whole lot worse.
Whenever new products start to hit market shelves with astonishing speed and volume, I always have concerns about the hype versus reality. This topic is no exception.
The Vape Pen is not only about convenience and concealment; advertising these days wants us to believe that Vaping is also about Health.
Stripping THC or any essential oil from a leaf is a complex process that uses some fairly gnarly chemicals. While reduced during final processing, these chems are not removed from your oil or wax. Worse is how these chemicals metastasize like cancer into deadly combinations when you add heat.
Problem 1: VAPI. Vape Associated Pulmonary (Lung) Illness. While studies have been suggesting a link for years, we now know for a fact that a common fungicide, Myclonozole (used in cultivation to treat mold) combines with butane (a solvent commonly used in oil extraction) to create myclobutanil, which when heated above 247 degrees F, degrades and releases Hydrogen Cyanide. Defined by a Google Search: Hydrogen cyanide (AC) is a chemical warfare agent (military designation, AC). It is used commercially for fumigation, electroplating, mining, chemical synthesis, and the production of synthetic fibers, plastics, dyes, and pesticides.
Sounds SUPER healthy to me. How many times have I been at a sesh where someone pulls out a pen, passes it around and every person who takes a pull has a crazy coughing fit? Too many. I’ll allow you to ignore that personal experience, but, can you ignore The New England Journal of Medicine, or the Mayo Clinic? https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/vaping-associated-lung-injury-may-be-caused-by-toxic-chemical-fumes-study-fines/
Ouch, but, that’s it, right? Everything else is Medical Grade? Well, if you can give inhaling Hydrogen Cyanide a pass just to get your marginal1 high on, then the ongoing debate in this country about which aerosolizer is ‘least detrimental’ to your health should be a real sleeper.
Problem 2: Aerosolizers, or thinners, are added to the waxy THC oil extract to make it more runny, about the consistency of Honey; hence the name BHO – Butane Honey Oil. Runnier consistency helps the vape pen do a better job turning liquid into a gas for inhalation. Coconut Oil, Poly Ethylene Glycol (PEG) and Vitamin E Acetate are the most prevalent ‘cut’ used by THC Cartridge makers because they are cheap and ‘available’. ‘Available’ for use in cosmetics as key ingredients in skin moisturizers. Moisturizers create a boundary to trap moisture in the skin instead of allowing it to evaporate. All three of these chemicals are currently banned for ingestion in the European Union, but not in the United States. Ingestion occurs when used as an inhalant. These compounds do the same thing inside your lungs; they create a boundary layer. Unfortunately, the boundary created is between lung tissue and air, inhibiting oxygen from being delivered to your body in the short run and causing acute lung tissue necrosis over time.
But that’s just a pipe maker bashing vapes….right? Ok, maybe not…. https://www.leafly.com/news/health/vape-pen-lung-disease-vitamin-e-oil-explained
Vape Pens are big business now. Like glass pipes, there were a handful of manufacturers with a unique design at first. Enter China. China is the source for 99% of Vape Pens consumed in this country. This is relevant because the supplier base for Vape Pens exploded with China, but the number of unique designs for the mechanism stayed small. China might be a lousy innovator, but they are extremely proficient copy cats, which allows us to discuss the components in general terms, instead of each model.
Problem 3: 95% of Vape Pens are not indirect vaporization, they are direct combustion.
Before we dig in, a quick primer on Vaporization (Vaping). Vaping describes the process by which a solid or liquid is changed to a gas with the addition of energy. We’ve all boiled water before; evaporation is adding energy (heat) INDIRECTLY to solid or liquid water and turning it into a vapor/gas (steam) through convection. In much the same way, ‘box’ vaporizers of the early 2000’s raised the temperature of AIR being passed over leaf (indirect), which in turn, raised the temperature of the leaf to the point where the water contained in the leaf boiled (212 F). The water boils inside the plant cells, the steam explodes out of the cell wall and the ‘violent’ eruption of steam knocks the resin bearing Trichomes off the leaf and into the air stream to be inhaled. The same thing happens when smoking the leaf, however, the energy (heat) is applied directly to the leaf causing combustion.
Combustion effectively liberates the essential oils, and also creates additional particulate and compounds which are not necessarily healthy. Study after study has found that smoking is bad for you.
I operate a pipe company, so let’s be direct: I am aware that smoking is NOT a Health conscious activity. Times have changed, smoking a pipe has not. BITD, we might end our day with a leisurely pull on a Dr. Grabow. It was called moderation. Flash forward to modern times and that word moderation has seemingly been removed from the American lexicon. Now, we smoke and vape non-stop to maintain our chemical tainted consciousness 24/7. Without moderation, nothing is healthy. We can eat ourselves to death. Exercise ourselves to death and yes, smoke and vape ourselves to death. Yes, I know, many of you want that head change to be 24/7/365 and I get it. My answer: Start microdosing edibles for your permanent fix and when you wish to sit down socially for a sesh and enjoy your smoked cannabis with moderation, I have a pipe for you at chameleonglass.com
To offset some of these shifts in society, Chameleon has a record of working hard on creating designs like the Monsoon, Typhoon and Ash Catcher pipes to mitigate the KNOWN un-healthiness of smoking. According to several recent articles, Vape Pens and E-Cigs are here to save us from the horrors of smoking/combustion with the new Healthy way to inhale…except for all the dead people and the fact that most pens are combustion devices, no matter what the outside of the box says.
Cartridge or Coils, direct contact with the heating element is combustion. You can use whatever flowery wordsmithed phrases you want, it’s still combustion.
Match to the tip of your cigarette: Combustion.
Lighter to the bowl of your pipe: Combustion.
Heating coil in contact with Wax or Oil: Combustion.
Not too many Vape sellers will tell you that, but when one does, you have to take notice. https://vapevetstore.com/blogs/vaporizer-learning-center/combustion-vs-conduction-vs-convection-vaping
So, let’s dig in. Health is big business. The supplement industry alone accounted for more than $122 Billion dollars last year alone! In every industry, big money means opportunists; Get rich quick scam artists who care most about their wallet. Class Action lawsuits are beginning to pile up here for good reason; we know opportunists don’t care about YOUR wallet, we just didn’t think they didn’t care about our health too. Whether it’s Protein shakes with no protein, or fat burning pills laced with Meth, even the big, long term lawyered up corporations like supplement retailer GNC are getting pinched for being bad citizens by falsely claiming health benefits that exist only in their marketing. If a venerable, 80 year old institution like GNC is acting the fool, you think some fly by night, flash in the pan opportunist or self proclaimed ‘distrupter’ isn’t doing the same thing?
I think I have adequately suggested and supported that large new business categories attract opportunists like flies. Those opportunists are now in the Vape Pen and E-Cig product markets. Here’s why I think their wallet is more important to them than your Health:
- Most Vape Pens have nothing to do with true vaporization because the heating coil is in direct contact with your leaf or extract. Most of us call that combustion. I’ve directly addressed the fact that combustion (read: smoking) has nothing to do with a ‘Healthy’ lifestyle. Yes, there are maladies that present the pre-requisite of inhalation of cannabis as the method of medicinal introduction to the body, most canna-medicine can be introduced via edibles.
- Other than the most expensive ‘mods’ on the market, Vape Pens do not offer a definitive selective temperature setting. Sorry, the red, blue and purple LED lights glowing at the tip of your pen are completely inaccurate. Most pens are on/off only and offer limited information on default temperature settings. Half of the pens I tested with heat settings were completely fictional. This is an important distinction because even if you have an indirect heat source, if you add excess heat energy, you end up with combustion anyway. If you can’t control the temperature, and the published (if you’re lucky) default temperature is 750 degrees, then you know its combustion, which is just another way to smoke.
- Whether pre-filled ‘cartomizer’ or ‘fill your own’ style, Vape Pens and E-Cigs require something to combust or vaporize. Tobacco and Cannabis are both heavily age regulated substances, and yet, there is little or no regulation of the chemical composition of either. E-Cigs and THC Pens contain thinning and aerosolizer agents to make the Vape Pen or E-Cig work. Thinners in E-Cigs are often the same ingredients as what is found in embalming fluid; Formaldehyde and Methanol. Aerosolizers added to THC extracts for use in ‘Vape’ Pens often contain the same or worse. Inhaling embalming fluid = not ‘Healthy’.
- More about chemicals2 : Much about extraction is unknown to the consuming public. Because something is widely available for sale, does not mean it is not harmful to you. Maybe we have forgotten the mammoth fines levied against Big Tobacco for knowingly using addictive carcinogenic additives in their products. The extract you just bought sounds tasty, but what’s in it? 95% of extract on the market today use Butane and Propane as solvents to melt the trichomes off the leaf. Extract companies claim that the final extract is ‘purged’ of these solvents, but, time after time, when testing is completed, we find significant Solvent parts per million (PPM). Chalice 2016 saw 28 out of 32 ‘Solventless’ extract submissions disqualified upon testing for, you guessed it; Solvents . Why use solvents? They’re cheap. A cryogenic extraction machine that uses Carbon Dioxide is 4X more expensive than a solvent based extractor…and 1000X more expensive than open circuit/back yard blasters making poop-soup.
Used in moderation, Pens offer convenience, there is no question. If you have to use a Pen, but want to avoid huffing solvents, make sure you purchase CO2 extracted THC from a professional outlet that guarantees testing of every single lot of product, just like modern pharmaceutical grade medications do. Carbon Dioxide = Healthy. Huffing Butane and Propane = Not Healthy.
‘Healthy’ Vaping Problem Summary:
- Hydrogen Cyanide from Butane and Fungicide
- Aerosolizers form Oxygen Barriers in your lungs
- Coil Contact = Combustion = Smoking, not Vaping
1. Marginal? Yeah, marginal, as in, average; neither good nor bad. At first, everyone raved about how crazy high they got on extract. No doubt. The first couple times I dabbed or used a pen, I got sauced…..however, I also got splitting headaches. I already knew from my days building models (I think the first time I got ‘high’ was from a bottle of ‘Testors-Corvette Red’ I had been using all day during a build) that I had a sensitivity to solvents. What I didn’t know was that my ‘medicine’ had solvents in it. When I found out about the solvents, I researched alternate extraction methods. Although significantly more costly in small batch preparations like cannabis, cryogenic extraction using carbon dioxide has far fewer environmental and residual solvent implications. So, I only vaped CO2 extracts…..except that super fast zoom high I used to get with the pen was gone now. How could that be? More research. Since I am a canary in a coalmine for solvents, I found that Solvent based extractions leave residual solvent that causes an immediate, intense high, far beyond the effect produced by CO2 extracted oil and wax. It wasn’t the strain. It wasn’t the grower, it wasn’t the model of pen I used, it was the solvents.
The Surgeon General’s website, supported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, emphasizes the critical risks associated with youth and young adult use of e-cigarettes. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, e-cigarettes are devices that heat a liquid into an aerosol, which users inhale. This liquid often contains nicotine, flavorings, and other additives. Notably, nicotine is highly addictive and can have detrimental effects on brain development, which continues until around the age of 25. The website underscores that, besides nicotine, e-cigarettes can contain harmful substances, including ultrafine particles, flavorants like diacetyl linked to serious lung disease, volatile organic compounds, and heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead. They stress that no matter how nicotine is delivered, it is harmful to youth and young adults, citing health risks such as damage to the respiratory system. Their message emphasizes the importance of parents influencing their children’s decisions regarding e-cigarette use and provides practical resources, including a Parent Tip Sheet, to facilitate conversations about the risks.
2. Cultivation methods and chemicals used in cultivation of both Tobacco and Cannabis are not as well regulated as you might think. Were all up in arms about GMO’s and HFCS’s, yet, we routinely purchase Cannabis from the Black Market? Unregulated cannabis production may have been cool a few years ago, but, now, people are dying and/or developing life altering ailments that behave suspiciously like Mesothelioma and COPD. In the black market, it is common to use chemicals to artificially speed growth or stress the plant to increase bearing weight at harvest (for higher yield/profitability). These chemicals often contain compounds (heavy metals and pfthalates) not meant to be inhaled or ingested. More research is needed, but, that takes tax dollars collected from a legal marketplace. For the time being, purchase your goods from a known manufacturer and read the label on your purchase from a state-legal operation that tests every lot of product produced prior to sale.