How Scared Should You Be of Vaping?
If you've frequented the internet these past few weeks, chances are you’ve seen a deluge of stories telling you to throw out your USB sticks, boycott Juul (if you want to read about the layoffs, go here) and heard a public statement from Trump and Melania condemning vapes (guns are still OK). The latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are 530 illnesses in the US and 9 deaths with nearly three-quarters of those sickened being male and between the ages of 18-34. There’s been a lot of noise, so, what's the deal?
The safest option when it comes to consuming anything is always going to be to not smoke it. Think we can all agree our lungs are made for oxygen but, from what we know, some "smoke-ables" appear safer than others; particularly if you're going to compare it to smoking regular cigarettes. If you are going to smoke our friends at Quill and the Center for Disease Control have answered some of your biggest questions around vaping until we know more.
This we learned from the Center for Disease Control; they don’t know if it’s a rise in awareness or a rise in a specific ingredient in vapes causing lipid pneumonia and lung illnesses. What they do know is that the illness spans e-cigarettes and THC products. Some that were sick reported only THC use, others nicotine and THC and some just nicotine. In a statement to reporters, Jennifer Layden, the chief medical officer of the Illinois Department of Public Health noted "I don't think we can say if it's a new or newly recognized phenomenon… it does appear to be an increase of cases."
According to Quill, the first thing to evaluate is anything that isn’t pure plant extract.
"We have been inhaling and ingesting all kinds of plants for thousands of years. We know that there’s a wide variety of organic and inorganic compounds going into our lungs, and we acknowledge that there are risks associated with anything that’s not been tested and not found in nature. Whether it’s cannabis, tobacco, or otherwise, pure extract without cutting agents or diluents stay as close to the plant as possible.
In other words, because Quill only uses totally pure cannabis extract, there’s nothing in it that’s not already in a joint.
Current generations are the first to vape additives like pineapple flavoring, propylene glycol, MCT oil, banana creme filling, and now, horrifyingly, vitamin E acetate. These new flavors and diluents — inhaled into our lungs — are what Quill (and the New York Health Department) worries about. If a product isn’t pure plant extract from known, historically smokable plants, then you are introducing new, previously unexplored risk."
While government agencies are exploring all products and ingredients, we can’t ignore that vaping has allowed for harm reduction in smoking cigarettes, so, per the CDC don’t go back to those because that will definitely kill you.
The FDA is going after Vitamin E acetate, but all ingredients are under scrutiny. The New York Department of Health found “very high levels of vitamin E acetate in nearly all cannabis-containing samples analyzed.” Think it’s safe to say, until we know more, don’t smoke that.
According to Quill, they noted if it doesn’t come from a pure plant extract, you don’t want your lungs near it.
“We encourage consumers to seek out vape products that are explicitly, exclusively cannabis or hemp derived. Also, we recommend seeking out full spectrum extract whenever possible. Full spectrum means that we are retaining the whole spread of cannabinoids and terpenes in a specific source strain.
In addition to ingredients, we highly encourage customers to learn about their state-specific rules around testing for pesticides, solvents, and mold. If your state’s websites are hard to read (and many of them are) go into your local licensed dispensaries and ask the budtenders about testing. All flower, extract, and concentrate products should have associated tests available for consumers to verify. But even in states like Oregon where the testing rules are incredibly stringent, consumers have been in danger as we’ve seen from a recent fatality.”
Quill explains the ingredient and dilemma with vapes:
“Vitamin E is also called tocopherol, and tocopheryl acetate is the scientific name of vitamin E acetate. While current reports are honing in on it as the primary instigator of this spate of illnesses and pulmonary issues, it’s impossible to conclusively tie every incident to this particular ingredient.
MCT oil is another common additive that, quite honestly, worries us. Also known as coconut oil, it’s a heavy oil that is wonderful for vegan cooking and massages, but has the potential to cause lipid pneumonia if inhaled into the lungs.”
While there are rumblings of health organizations in Canada exploring the impact and potential damage of all oils to lungs including pure cannabis, most health professionals and organizations we reached out to declined to comment noting there are no conclusive results as of yet. One doctor, who asked to remain anonymous, noted that vaping is generally considered better for your health than smoking. That being said, we need more research on less regulated markets and the ingredients that go into pens like CBD. Oh, and not smoking is always the best option for your lungs.
Quill, in having a THC and CBD product in market explains that unfortunately, most state regulations haven’t caught up with these new ingredients.
Regulators are moving fast, so in a week this could all change, but as of right now consumers should ask questions and develop trust with their dispensaries and the brands they carry. Some dispensaries might carry vapes with questionable ingredients.
Quill noted that they have been fortunate to work with highly discerning dispensary buyers who have been asking about vape ingredients for years. According to them, you should seek out budtenders at dispensaries that encourage education and are proactive about sharing information with their customers.
Cannabis vapes are expensive to produce. If a vape seems too inexpensive, a deal too-good-to-be-true, it might be cut with unsafe modifiers. Quill notes you should trust your gut, ask budtenders lots of questions, and make sure that you’re buying from a company that invests in producing safe, non-diluted extract. Don't be afraid to do your research prior!
Everything mentioned above is completely relevant to hemp CBD vapes. Perhaps even more so, as hemp CBD vapes are infinitely less regulated than cannabis THC vapes.
According to Quill, "hemp vaporizers, due to swiftly growing popularity, deserve even more scrutiny. If it’s cut with MCT oil, Vitamin E, or other diluents, that’s a huge, potentially dangerous problem. And if the ingredients aren’t listed, tested, and verified: don’t buy it.
With Quill CBD, we’re super proud to have a hand in hemp cultivation at Iverson Family Farms in Woodburn, Oregon, CO2 extraction next door to the farm at FSOil, and testing performed by Chemhistory, an ORELAP-accredited facility that we also use for our cannabis releases."
While we are continuing to learn about cannabis and hemp, smoking cigarettes is definitely terrible for you. For context, the U.K. has adopted an approach that welcomes e-cigarettes as an important harm-reduction measure. According to a report in The Guardian, a couple of National Health Service hospitals have even allowed vape shops to open on their premises. So, even if you are hesitant to smoke a vape, for the love of al that is good, don't pick up a cigarette.
There’s been a state-wide ban on vaping. While we aren’t seeing the same ban on regular cigarette sticks, Even the California Department of Health urged state residents to refrain from all vaping “no matter the substance or source, until current investigations are complete.” For those that still want to vape, the one thing you should never do is buy, as the New York Times put it, is anything "off the street."
If you're scared of vaping the good news is that medical professionals, government agencies and politicians are paying attention. While we may not know the exact cause of vaping for months if not longer, the good news is there are always edibles.