If you don’t know what vaping is, you must have been living under a rock. By 2016, there were 35 million vapers worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation*. And Great Britain is by no means an exception to this trend. In fact, the United Kingdom is the second-largest market in the world for vaping. There are more than 1,100 vape businesses in this country, and the vaping industry here is set to exceed £2 billion by 2020.
Usually, vapers are people who used to smoke cigarettes and decided to switch to e-cigarettes out of health concerns. It is a fairly nascent industry, though, and the jury is currently out on whether vaping is actually better for your health than smoking. You can probably find an equal balance of scientific studies stating both sides: Some claim that it is better for you, while others state that it is just as bad. In truth, we will have to wait and see how it affects us long-term.
But nicotine vaping is now no longer the trendiest activity. There’s a new kid on the block, and that is CBD vape pens. When there is already a debate about the safety of e-cigarettes, it was always going to be the case that the dangers of CBD vaping were going to be called into question.
But first, we need to get around the vital question: Are regular vaporisers and CBD e-cigarettes the same thing?
Are Cannabis Vape Pens the Same as Regular E-Cigs?
Whether you decide to vape nicotine or cannabidiol, e-cigarettes are more or less the same. Over in Canada or the United States where cannabis is legal – at least in some states – you can get your hands on a ‘dry herb’ vaporiser, which has a compartment where you place cannabis flowers. The marijuana herb is vaporised, rather than a liquid. These are, of course, a little different to the e-cigarettes we’re talking about.
There are plenty of different e-cigarettes and vaporisers available on the market. Many have a pretty standard design, meaning you can place any cartridge into the pen and vape away – with these, it is possible to vape a mixture of nicotine and CBD e-liquids.
But there are also more specifically designed models. For example, JUUL is a well-known vape brand that sells their own brand of e-liquids in JUUL PODS. The JUUL cartridges are designed specifically to click into the JUUL device, and therefore you can only use products from this one company. Since JUUL don’t sell any CBD cartridges, you’re basically stuck with nicotine.
In general, though, CBD vape pens and regular e-cigarettes are one in the same. They all have a space to insert the e-liquid cartridge, a mouthpiece, and a battery; some just have more bells and whistles than others.
Is Any E-Cigarette Safe?
Theoretically, e-cigarettes are safer than smoking traditional tobacco cigarettes because they don’t use combustion. When you smoke, the process of lighting the cigarette on fire and burning it can lead to the release of harmful chemicals like tar and carbon monoxide. Of course, nicotine is also an addictive substance.
Nicotine is also included in traditional e-liquids, but the lack of harmful combustion elements could make vaping safer. The Royal College of Physicians suggests that e-cigarettes could be up to 95% safer than smoking. That being said, it may not be 100% safe.
Harmful chemicals can still appear in vapour, just at a much lower concentration. Furthermore, certain flavourings that are used in e-cigarettes are bad for your health. Diacetyl, for example, is used to create ‘sweet’ flavours and is known to cause a condition called popcorn lung.
Furthermore, a Johns Hopkins study from 2018 found that metals may leak from some e-cigarette heating coils. This means that harmful metals may be passed into the vapour that you inhale. As of yet, we’re not certain of the harm these metals may cause, but it definitely doesn’t look good.
That’s just nicotine e-liquids, though. Are there any dangers specific to vaping CBD?
Vaping CBD Oil: What You Need to Know
People vape CBD because it could be beneficial for our bodies. Cannabidiol is proving to be a good food supplement, used to better our health and wellbeing through its interaction with the endocannabinoid system. Usually, people take CBD via a sublingual oil, meaning it is placed in drops beneath the tongue before being swallowed. People also take capsules and sweets containing CBD.
However, vaping is becoming popular due to its bioavailability. This refers to the efficiency with which our bodies can use substances like medicine. When digesting medicines, a lot of the potency is often lost. Manufacturers claim that when vaping CBD, it is four times more potent than taking it in oil form, because it is delivered directly to the lungs. This is not scientifically proven by a specific study, but data does exist relating to bioavailability in this sense.
Although it may be more potent and therefore better for our wellbeing, could vaping CBD cause other harm to our health?
One problem is the nature of CBD oil itself. Depending on how the extract is made into the final product, it may still contain waxy plant materials. CBD oils are made from hemp, and the protective outer covering of hemp leaves may end up in the resulting oil. A process called winterisation can remove the cuticle wax, but not all manufacturers do this.
Vaping takes place at a fairly low temperature so as not to burn the e-liquid. This temperature is not high enough to burn out the cuticle wax, which means it remains in the liquid and ends up in your body. The waxy parts can clump together and settle in the lungs, causing obvious health complications. This is not concrete evidence yet, but it’s good to be aware of the possibility.
A similar thing can occur with the carrier oil itself. The CBD extract is suspended within a carrier oil to make it easier to take; this is usually coconut, MCT, or hemp seed oil. These oils are similar to what is used in making e-liquids. But vaping any oil is not actually good for you. The globules of oil in the vapour can also become stuck in your airways, leading to health complications. It can cause problems like Lipoid Pneumonia.
Then there is the issue of thinning agents. You can’t vape regular CBD oil because it is much too viscous and cannot be turned into vapour – it would just damage your vaporiser. As a result, companies add in thinning agents so that the oil can be vaped.
Two of the most commonly used thinning agents are propylene glycol (PG) and polyethylene glycol (PEG). These are actually also contained in nicotine e-liquids. Sadly, PG and PEG can break down into carcinogenic compounds when exposed to a high temperature, including the temperature involved in e-cigarettes. In other words, it’s possible for these chemicals to cause cancer when they break down into formaldehyde and acetaldehyde. In fact, a 2010 study found that formaldehyde can also cause allergies, asthma, and other respiratory issues.
These factors unfortunately suggest that vaping CBD may not ultimately be safe. However, there are very few studies on it as of yet, and we will have to wait a little longer for concrete evidence. Moreover, the risk of lipoid pneumonia and respiratory complications from plant cuticle wax may actually be very low; it is more likely a risk for very frequent vapers. Thinning agents are the largest risk, but again, vaping in moderation may be a way around it.
How to Vape CBD Oil Safely
It’s perfectly possible that vaping CBD oil is the best option for you. If you already vape nicotine, then switching over to CBD e-liquids could be a good way to quit. Some companies sell CBD additives that you can add into your nicotine e-liquids – try adding CBD in at first, and then slowly reduce nicotine content and increase your CBD until you’re using only cannabidiol. Doing this could be a great way to quit nicotine, because you can keep the habit of vaping and social smoking, but without the harmful combustion chemicals and without the addictive nicotine. CBD is non-addictive, so you’re safe!
Next, it’s important to do your research on the brands you’re buying from. Ensure that you’re buying both a high-quality e-cigarette and a high-quality e-liquid. By doing this, you are most likely to remain safe. Check out our top 3 tips for buying CBD online – most of them apply to e-liquids as well as CBD oil. While propylene glycol is pretty much unavoidable, try to look for low concentrations. There are companies who are trying to avoid it, though: Vape Bright provides a PG-free CBD e-liquid!
Finally, we recommend vaping alongside other methods of CBD consumption. By limiting the amount you vape, you minimise the risk of health complications such as lipoid pneumonia. Vaping frequently increases the health risks, which is why you should try to avoid it.
Final Thoughts on the Safety of CBD Vaping
If you want to vape your CBD instead of using other methods, it may improve the potency and increase your wellbeing with higher concentrations of CBD. There may, however, be some associated risks. This is not to say that you should not vape CBD oil, just that you should be careful.
Vaping is a perfectly viable option for some, and without conclusive evidence one way or another, there is no reason to be too afraid of CBD vape pens. In fact, the expense of vaporisers and e-liquids means that vaping CBD may do more harm to your wallet than your health!