The vaping industry took a huge hit last year when the vaping crisis affected more than 2,500 people in the United States. The cannabis vaping sector in particular also took a huge hit because it wasn’t, and still may not be, considered safe anymore. In August of 2019, many patients who presented breathing difficulties ended up in hospitals all over the U.S.
After an initial investigation, experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as intensive care medics discovered the culprit: vaping. Following this, the U.S. president Donald Trump announced the administration’s plans to ban vaping, a move vape store owners saw as a death sentence for their businesses.
But, after a thorough investigation, the CDC announced that the main culprit in the vaping crisis was not vaping but vaping tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in particular. So you might be wondering: Is cannabis vaping still safe? Let’s find out.
Cannabis was never the problem
Even though the vaping crisis was caused by THC cartridges, the CDC established that a substance called vitamin E acetate was responsible for the lung problems the patients experienced.
Vitamin E acetate is a substance commonly used as an additive in foods and skincare products, but it’s dangerous when inhaled. What’s more, the dangerous substance was not found in THC cartridges produced by large brands but in counterfeit products that somehow reached the market.
Since most of the dangerous products were counterfeit and vitamin E acetate was responsible for most of the severe cases of the vaping crisis, you could say that cannabis vaping was never the problem.
Why was vitamin E used in THC cartridges?
Vitamin E acetate or tocopheryl has been used as a dietary supplement and in skincare formulas for decades. When you eat it, this substance acts as an antioxidant and protects your cells from oxygen and free radical damage. When you apply it to your skin, it protects your skin’s outermost layers from UV exposure.
But counterfeiters and shady companies didn’t include this compound in their THC cartridges for its beneficial effects. They included it because vitamin E acetate acts as a cheap diluent, which cut their costs and increased their product returns.
Here’s the thing, even though THC vape e-liquids are often called THC vape oils, they are not oily substances. E-juices contain cannabinoids, glycerin, propylene glycol and flavours. These are all things your lungs can process.
But the counterfeiters probably thought that the users would not know the difference if the mixture was thinned with another oily substance. And that’s where they were wrong. Your lungs cannot process fats. When fat particles enter your lungs, your body tries to expel them, leading to the inflammatory response that affected so many people.
CBD was not involved in the vaping crisis
Even though over 2,500 people were hospitalised during the vaping crisis, less than 1 percent reported exclusive use of cannabidiol (CBD) products.
Now, you might consider this statistic as proof that CBD was responsible for the onset of lung problems, at least in some people. But, the thing is, 5 percent of those who presented symptoms reported no THC, nicotine or CBD product use.
Related: The Effects of CBD on the Human Body
At the moment, the CDC has yet to determine what actually made these people sick, so you shouldn’t jump to conclusions. Yes, some people who vaped CBD were affected, but so were some people who didn’t vape at all.
How the vaping crisis affected cannabis vaping
Even though it’s difficult to determine precisely how much the vaping crisis affected the cannabis vaping industry, evidence suggests that sales dropped in the aftermath of the vaping illness.
A report that focused on the market share of vape pens shows that sales in Oregon, Nevada and Colorado dropped by 23 percent, those in California decreased by 20 percent and those in Arizona declined by 15 percent from August to September 2019.
The report shows that, even though cannabis vape sales continued to grow, their sales growth was noticeably lower during the vaping crisis. So while vape sales rose by 36 percent in July, their growth slowed to just 7 percent in September.
During the vaping crisis, cannabis consumers apparently switched to other cannabis forms. Flower sales supposedly increased by 18 percent, cannabis beverages sales grew by 20 percent and pre-roll sales grew by 36 percent.
Cannabis vaping after the vaping crisis — is it safe?
In the wake of the vaping crisis, multiple cannabis companies demanded stricter legislation for e-liquid producers. In states that have legalised the use of recreational cannabis, cannabis companies often compete with illegal or unlicensed manufacturers.
The legit business owners believe that establishing a mandatory testing regimen for the cannabis industry will not only make the products safer but will also provide quality assurance to customers.
Other manufacturers did not wait for the authorities to take action but took the matter into their own hands. Pax Labs, a cannabis vaporizer company, released an app that shows the consumers all the information available on the vape cartridge they’re using, including the cannabis strain used, strain batch, potency, customer reviews and more.
Lucid Green released an app that allows users to scan a QR code and learn everything about the product they’re using. The app displays the vape product’s lab results, ingredients, effects, dosage guidelines, customer reviews and more. The app also has a section dedicated to budtenders, helping them communicate the product’s information to interested shoppers.
Cannabis vaping safety — what to look out for
If there’s one thing you should be concerned about in the wake of the vaping crisis, it’s the existence of knockoff products designed to look exactly like those of renowned cannabis companies.
Even though cannabis companies make efforts to inform the public about the safety of cannabis vapes, counterfeiters will always try to make an easy profit by ripping off their products and selling crappy merchandise.
You don’t have to wait for the authorities to regulate the cannabis industry to make a safe choice. Make sure you know what to look for when buying cannabis products, always buy from licensed, renowned dealers, and you should vape cannabis without risking your health.