To Vape or Not to Vape? That is the Question!
Updated: Jul 6, 2020
Vape cartridges have been garnering quite a bit of attention here at the end of 2019. While we at The Cannidote are pleased that people are becoming aware of the harmful ingredients hidden inside most vape products; we are equally appalled at the political plays and propaganda used by the media as of late that has led to the banning of their sales in various states. Vape cartridges, when created and used properly, can be a safe, convenient, and aroma free alternative to smoking raw dried flower. Our authors wade through the metaphorical mud in order to bring you, the reader, the straight forward facts surrounding vaping.
Dangers of the Black Market:
As of this writing in October of 2019, 29 individuals' cause of death has been directly linked to hydrogen cyanide found inside vape cartridges. More than 1,000 additional hospital patients across 46 states are suffering from symptoms confirmed to be caused by the same chemical compound. The CDC, politicians, and the media alike have been quick to use this sad reality as reason to call for the legal means to forbid their sales. Some have even gone as far as declaring a public health emergency. Fear tactics are quite often the go-to means of persuasion when it comes to the "tobacco science" agenda. While the more than 1,000 Americans who's health has been negatively affected by these products is certainly a cause for concern; it is curious to see so many of the same people who are so adamantly opposed to the vaping industry showing little to no concern about the 480,000 Americans that die every year from tobacco use.
16 million Americans suffer from smoking related diseases. Of the almost 500,000 to die annually, 41,000 are a result of second hand smoke exposure. Where is the public health emergency outcry against tobacco use? In it's almost 100 year presence in our markets, how many cities have banned the sale of cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products? The sad reality is that politicians benefit financially in far too great a degree, to risk aggravating the tobacco industry. Every year, nearly twenty million dollars is lobbied to Congress from tobacco companies. Since before the 1950's, obvious conflicts of interest have existed between the scientific literature and this big business.
"The tobacco industry...moved aggressively into a new domain, the production of scientific knowledge, not for purposes of research and development but, rather, to undo what was now known: that cigarette smoking caused lethal disease. If science had historically been dedicated to the making of new facts, the industry campaign now sought to develop specific strategies to “unmake” a scientific fact."
These institutions consistently use the same, narrow-focused lens to take and paint their picture. They provide only a small distorted portion of the Truth to create a narrative with an overabundance of false truths. The media, as a whole, has done a poor job of informing it's followers of the fact that the only cases of hydrogen cyanide poisoning reported have been linked to black market THC cartridges. Nicotine vape juice, while it does have its fair share of drawbacks, has not been causing the rapid decline in health, hospitalizations, and loss of life we have seen from black market variations. These false truths are designed and promoted in an effort to quell the rise of tobacco's thriving competition. The conscienceless capitalists who operate under such motivations have very little regard for the small business men and women they put out of work, and the families and communities that suffer as a result.
An NBC funded study conducted in California tested 18 cannabis vape cartridges, obtained both legally and via unlicensed dealers. Only three products were purchased from legal dispensaries, and the CannaSafe testing company found no heavy metals, pesticides or residual solvents like Vitamin E in those products. Thirteen of the remaining 15 samples taken from black market THC cartridges were found to contain Vitamin E acetate. They also tested 10 of the unregulated cartridges for petroleum derived inputs, of which all 10 tested positive for myclobutanil, a fungicide that can transform into hydrogen cyanide when heated.
The unnecessary harm that has come as a result of vaping is caused by our nation's War on Drugs. The legal, and thus regulated cartridges contained no heavy metals, pesticides, or residual solvents, whereas the vast majority of the black market variants did. If health was the real concern, the CDC, the politicians, and an informed public, would be calling for an end to the drug war. At the very least, they would begin to wage the war against the dangerous drugs like alcohol, tobacco, and opiates. But again, when the beer, wine, and liquor industries lobby nearly 20 million dollars during the 2018 election cycle alone, it becomes difficult for politicians to turn down the dirty money presented to them by lobbyists. Add to that another 30-60 million dollars from the pharmaceutical industry, and the aforementioned 20 million more from tobacco companies, and our current health care system begins to make sense.
If black market THC carts are really whats causing such severe health problems, does that mean that vape juice from smoke shops is totally safe? The answer is a resounding "N.O." There are numerous ingredients commonly used in these vape products that present a host of side effects.
The Juicy Gossip On Vape Juice:
The vape juice industry appeared seemingly overnight. In fairly quick order, the public went from to dragging on tobacco cigarettes in public places, to puffing clouds of blueberry bubblegum flavored nicotine everywhere they go. Vape shops line the streets of just about every American city, town, and unincorporated village. In many municipalities, they even rival the liquor stores. But what ingredients make up the typical vape juice?
They all begin with a mixture of water and/or vegetable glycerine (VG) and/or propylene glycol (PG). These substances are used as sweeteners and thickeners. Like GMOs, the FDA recognizes both as "generally regarded as safe." However, just as with GMOs, numerous studies fill the scientific literature showcasing the toxicity of both. Several have even demonstrated VG to negatively effect a greater percentage of people than did the PG. While it is possible to find studies that claim no toxic effects of either, it is important to note that these are often funded by the nicotine industry itself. Be sure to research the conflicts of interest before or after reading a scientific publication. Do your best to rely on the independently funded, or taxpayer funded literature.
Propylene glycol is most commonly derived from petroleum and used as an antifreeze, both in food and in recreational vehicles. Those that support the use of PG, or those that have some financial ties to the industry, will ensure you that the term "antifreeze" ought not be feared in this context. Some would go as far as to compare it to a more well known antifreeze: sidewalk salt, as it lowers the freezing point of water. Using common sense however, would you choose to eat that salt? Would you soak in a salt bath made from it? If that salt is so safe, why do they have to create "pet-safe" versions? We here at The Cannidote won't even touch Morton's table salt, let alone that stuff. Remember that the skin is the largest organ. If you wouldn't eat it, don't put it on your skin. And if you wouldn't eat it, certainly do not smoke it.
Some ethically minded corporations are converting vegetable glycerin into propylene glycol as a more environmentally friendly alternative. Regardless of the simple chemistry behind the molecule, or what it is derived from, the fact remains that it causes dehydration, can lead to skin irritations such as eczema, damages respiratory tissue (from nose to lungs), has known allergic reactions, and has never been evaluated for carcinogenic (cancer causing) effect. In our opinion, it is not a wise idea to vaporize a natural gas byproduct directly into lungs. With the rapid rise of lung disease since the inception of vaping, it could easily be argued that it is just as bad, if not worse than smoking cigarettes. Yes, smoking cigarettes leads to lung cancer, but it takes decades. Popcorn lung is back, and is taking only a few short years to present itself.
Vape juices are filled with poisons just like cigarettes. They may not contain as many ingredients as cancer sticks, but they may be just as dangerous, if not more. Diacetyl is an organic compound that is found in nature, and is also produced as a result of certain fermentation processes. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health conducted several studies and suggested the removal of diacetyl from the public food supply, due to the damage it reportedly caused to the lungs of employees working in the microwave popcorn industry. Officially termed bronchiolitis obliterans, but more commonly referred to as "popcorn lung" - is a scarring of the tiny air sacs (bronchioles) in the lungs resulting in the thickening and narrowing of the airways. Subsequent studies have been completed confirming the NIOSH's initial reports. Yet, according to the American Lung Association, researchers at Harvard found 39 of 51 vape juice samples to test positive for the very same compound.
2,3 Pentanedione is a byproduct of pentane (which is petroleum derived), and is typically found in roughly half of all vape juice liquids. The National Institute of Health qualifies this compound as a flammable, corrosive, with recorded health hazards. It is commonly used as a replacement to diacetyl, however, in many cases both are present. 2,3 Pentanedione is chemically similar to diacetyl, which would explain why researchers, since 2010 have been documenting similar toxic side effects; including damage to airway epithelial tissue, and altered gene expression within the brain. Similarly harmful, acetoin was discovered to be present in 46 out of 51 samples taken in the Harvard study. In total, 92% of e-cigarettes contained at least one of these three harmful compounds.
Even more disturbing; the FDA announced in 2017 that e-cigarette manufacturers would not be required to submit their products and ingredients list for review until 2022. Many wonder why America operates so irresponsibly when dealing with the public's exposure to unknown compounds, especially when compared to their European Union counterparts, who air on the side of caution. In the EU, patented compounds are assumed dangerous and banned from the public supply until proven safe. In the US, quite the opposite is true. They are "generally regarded as safe" until proven otherwise. Until then, we the people are the uncompensated lab rats being used by big oil to make their trillions. Please research IG Farben and Operation Paperclip to make more sense of this matter.
Artificial flavorings have been cause for concern for some time now. There are more than 7,000 synthetic artificial flavorings on the market. Many of these flavors, such as bubblegum and cotton candy, are even designed by flavor companies, via their flavor chemists, to tempt even the youngest of consumers to purchase this poison. As just mentioned, the majority of these compounds have not been tested or safety by the FDA, before they were released into public markets. Independent research has not only demonstrated the detrimental health implications of these (typically petroleum derived) molecules as individuals, but even more worrisome, their cumulative effect when mixed together and then heated.
In 2017, a study published in the American Heart Association's journal found that all of the vape juice flavorings tested can impair blood vessel function—an early indicator of heart damage. Among the flavorings tested, the most popular tended to be the most harmful. Cinnamon, vanilla, strawberry, banana, mint, and buttery and creamy flavorings were found to be dangerous, even at low concentrations. Furthermore, the complex flavor profiles and combinations such as strawberry-banana, berries & cream, or mystery flavors proved to be exponentially more toxic than the single flavor varieties. As Emily Wood, a cannabis advisor at Honest Herb explained to Bustle.com: "Research has shown that mixing multiple flavoring chemicals together creates far more cell destruction than inhaling single flavor e-liquids...The more complex the flavor is, likely the unhealthier it will be for the consumer."
And finally, nicotine. While not found in all vape liquids, it is a common ingredient that comes in various milligram doses. Nicotine is well known to pose several health hazards. As stated in a 2015 publication within the Indian Journal of Medical and Paediatric Oncology, it is responsible for:
"an increased risk of cardiovascular, respiratory, and gastrointestinal disorders. There is decreased immune response and it also poses ill impacts on reproductive health. It affects cell proliferation, oxidative stress, apoptosis, and DNA mutation by various mechanisms which leads to cancer. It also affects the tumor proliferation and metastasis and causes resistance to chemo and radio therapeutic agents."
Like cannabis, nicotine can create numerous complications within the developing brain. Adolescents who inhale nicotine are likely to display decreased brain activity and experience more difficulty with concentration and memory than their sober peers. Other ailments linked to nicotine use that have not been mentioned include diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. Nicotine is also addictive and leads to various, sometimes uncontrollable cravings. While we suggest waiting until at least the age of 16 (if not older) to inhale cannabis products, we never condone the use of nicotine or tobacco, unless under the supervision of a well trained shaman, medicine man, or healer.
Do "Healthy" Vape Cartridges Exist?:
The best kind of vape cartridge is one that contains organic, full spectrum cannabis as the number one ingredient and comes with a 3rd party test proving the absence of molds, mildew, heavy metals, and toxins. Apart from the numerous documented benefits of consuming CBD products, switching to legal cannabis cartridge options ensures you will safely avoid the onslaught of disease causing compounds commonly found in tobacco and nicotine products. Some companies have recognized the health risks of inhaling heated vegetable oil and propylene glycol, and have thus looked to nut based thinners like MCT oil instead. Others still have gone above and beyond by ensuring no VG, PG, or even MCT carriers. Instead they use plant based terpene profiles as both a thinning agent and natural flavoring. These cartridges are the cream of the crop and well worth their price point. These are the cartridges stocked on our shelves.
Human beings have been smoking dried herbs, even tobacco and certain oils/resins for centuries. Mullein leaf when smoked can, in fact assist in dealing with respiratory dysfunction. Rose, hops, and passionflower calm the nervous system and mints add flavor and body. Interestingly however, those ancient homo sapiens did not suffer from cancer, popcorn lung, and various other respiratory diseases that we experience today. As professor emeritus of medicine at UCLA, Dr. Donald Tashkin, who has spent more than 30 years studying the effects of cannabis tar and smoke on the lungs, has proven; it matters a great deal what is being smoked. While cannabis tar shares the same carcinogenic compounds as tobacco tar, the researchers were not able to make any association between lung cancer and cannabis use.
"The smoke content of marijuana is very similar to that of tobacco. There is a higher concentrate of cancer-causing chemicals in marijuana tar, and it reaches the lungs before any other organ, so there is this idea that they are related in causing the same health issues of the lungs...Through my studies, we failed to find any positive association. The association would be negative, between lung cancer and the use of marijuana. The likelihood is, that despite the fact that marijuana smoke contains carcinogens, we don’t see the same heightened risks of cancers that we see in tobacco.”
In today's fast past society filled with modern conveniences, it is highly unlikely we will see the disappearance of devices like e-cigarettes and vaporizers. As technology advances, these instruments are bound to get even smaller and more effective. With agencies like the FDA and CDC asleep at the wheel, the responsibility lies on the shoulders of the consumers to properly educate themselves about what they purchase. Until the War on Drugs is over, we must be hyper aware of the dangers that accompany black market substances. We are witnessing the results of what happens when you make safe plants illegal, and dangerous ones not only legal, but also heavily promoted.
Humans, since the beginning, and for a whole host of reasons, have been looking for safe and effective ways in which to alter their consciousness. Meditation, drugs & teas like Ayahuasca, fasting, even a child spinning in circles until they fall to the ground, are just a few time tested examples of such ways we've done so. Perhaps we should stop viewing this activity with such cultural taboo, and embrace it as part of what it means to be human. Only then will we begin to appreciate the time and effort conscience capitalistic corporations put into their products. Only then will we realize the importance of toxic free food, water, air...and recreational substances.
The sources cited are primarily intended for the casual reader. Each source however, has been carefully chosen to include scientific sources linked within. Living with today's industry funded, pseudo-scientific journals, we encourage you to "research the research".