In 2016, 24% of cannabis sales in California were linked to vaping cartridges; this is as tracked by the cannabis App-Eaze. The figure should be higher now since more people are seeking safer and more convenient alternatives for ingesting cannabis.
A cannabis vape pen is relatively cheap, and a cartridge costs $30-$60. These pens are chic and portable. They offer a discrete option for smoking cannabis as they do not produce the cloudy smoke associated with traditional joints and bongs. Vape juices are usually infused with compounds to enhance the smell and taste of cannabis, making them even more endearing.
However, vaping is gaining popularity because of another reason; it’s gentle on the lungs. Unlike traditional smoking methods, vaping does not involve combustion. The weed is heated to a temperature where it vaporizers without burning. This ensures that the toxic compounds produced through combustion are eliminated. Vapes can contain either nicotine or cannabis, but the aim is to circumvent the combustion process and reduce the health risk associated with smoking cannabis or tobacco cigarettes.
There’s been a lot of controversy surrounding this issue; is vaping a safe alternative to smoking? Can vape help one to quit smoking? For now, we can say that the jury is still out on this. However, we know for a fact that sales of vape cartridges have spiked significantly. Similarly, Google searches on vaping related terms have witnessed a complementary spike. People are interested in vaping, but if CDC claims prove true, the interest may take a nosedive in the near future.
Vaping-related death Causes A Stir
Just recently, the CDC issued a statement regarding a vaping related death that happened in Illinois. This was the first death to be reported and the news caused a stir in the cannabis world. Just as enthusiasts were beginning to fall in love with the safe alternative, their bubble has burst. What caused death is still not clear to date.
The Illinois Department of Public Health requested the CDC to investigate the death, a task that the CDC has taken to heart. The Director, Robert R. Redfield had the following to say:
“This tragic death in Illinois reinforces the serious risks associated with e-cigarette products. Vaping exposes users to many different substances for which we have little information about related harms – including flavorings, nicotine, cannabinoids, and solvents.”
The Cause Of Death Is A Blame Game
It appears that no party is willing to take the blame for this incident, and the many others being currently investigated. Gregory Conley, President of the American Vaping Association, believes that the negative effect could be attributable to black-market vapes which could be laced with THC and other harmful substances.
JUUL’s e-cigarettes, which are shaped like a USB flash disc, are gaining popularity among the youths. They could probably be the best selling e-cigs in the market currently. According to JUULs, one pod contains as much nicotine as 1 pack of cigars. The FDA has warned that nicotine poisoning could lead to seizures. Other reports also indicate that high nicotine levels could also cause cardiac malfunctions.
On one end, some parties believe that THC and other drugs peddled in the black market could be the cause of the problem. On the other end, it is believed that high nicotine levels in e-cigarettes are to blame.
The CDC has also noted with concern that many of the young people using vaping devices are experimenting with nicotine or cannabis for the first time. This could serve as a gateway to tobacco smoking or drug abuse in later life. The CDC reports that the number of young e-cigarette users increased by 1.5 million in 2018.
Vaping Is Better Than Smoking: Myth or Reality?
Smoking tobacco has been labeled as one of the most harmful habits known to mankind. The dangers associated with this are insurmountable. As for smoking cannabis, the evidence is hazy. The real effects of cannabis on the lungs have not been established. While some argue that cannabis can help relieve symptoms of COPD and asthma, others argue that the health risks associated with THC far outweigh the potential benefits. As for tobacco, we are clear that there is no good that comes with it after the “feel-good effect” has faded.
Apart from the substances being smoked, such as cannabis or tobacco, smoking may pose further risks to the lungs. Smoking involves combustion which releases toxic fumes to the lungs. Chronic smoking is associated with lung irritation, wheezing, emphysema, and exacerbation of asthma symptoms. Since vaping does not involve combustion, it may be a safer alternative to direct smoking. In fact, vaping can be used to wean off chronic smokers from the detrimental effects associated with smoking.
Unfortunately, many young people turning to vape are not previous smokers. This means that they are exposing their lungs to “potential risks” that had not been in the picture prior. Vaping may also open the doors to experimenting with cigarettes in the future. As for now, it will be decades before the long-term effects of vaping can be established. But the FDA would rather have young people keep away from vaping in the meanwhile.
1. CDC (2019): CDC Director’s Statement on the first death related to the outbreak of severe lung disease in people who use an e-cigarette or “vaping” devices. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2019/s0823-vaping-related-death.html
2. CDC: E-Cigarettes: Talk to Youth About the Risks. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/features/back-to-school/e-cigarettes-talk-to-youth-about-risks/index.html
3. American Vaping Association. Retrieved from https://vaping.org/press-release/facts-point-to-black-market-thc-products-in-tragic-illinois-death-from-vaping/
4. NCBI (2018): Predictors of adult e-cigarette users vaporizing cannabis using e-cigarettes and vape pens. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5409866/