With cannabidiol (CBD) becoming a mainstream health and well-being phenomenon, “vaping” is among the many options available for its consumption. Not too long ago, CBD was associated primarily with marijuana. And marijuana, whether consumed for medication or to obtain a “high,” was most often smoked. Today, hemp-derived, non-psychoactive CBD is gaining ground among average users who are discovering its many benefits. Now we can enjoy CBD’s benefits without the “high” that comes from the compound THC found in marijuana. As the CBD movement advances, so do the options for consuming it: Ingesting CBD is arguably the most convenient, especially with the wide assortment of capsules, tinctures and edibles available.
Smoking CBD, of course, is still an option. Non-psychoactive CBD is also available in forms that are smoked or vaped. As the health risks of smoking in general have led to its dramatic drop in popularity, smoking CBD has followed suit. This has led to a rise in vaping CBD oil, which is seen has having less of an impact on the respiratory and cardiovascular systems than smoking.
CBD “oil” is a term used broadly to describe either oral (as in tinctures or capsules) CBD products or vapable CBD products. But technically speaking, you can’t really vape CBD oil. That’s a misnomer. CBD oils are concentrates that you take orally. Instead, you’re actually vaping “CBD vape liquid.” However, most consumers (and businesses) use the terms interchangeably, and most people use the term “CBD oil” rather than “CBD vape liquid.” So for the purposes of this article, we’ll use the more popular term, CBD oil.
Vaping CBD oil is considered better for your health than smoking it. Vaping produces a vapor that is up to 95% free of smoke and carcinogens. And vaping is the fastest CBD delivery system: You absorb up to 95% of the CBD within the first few seconds of inhaling. Because vaporizers operate at far lower temperatures than smoking, they preserve the most beneficial compounds. And vaping has some social niceties about it, in that it doesn’t produce a lingering smell and doesn’t subject nearby people to clouds of second-hand smoke.
“Vaping,” as it’s commonly called, is short for “vaporization.” Simply put, vaping CBD oil is an intake method whereby the user inhales vapor derived from heating CBD oil. CBD oil is an extraction of the cannabinoid CBD from cannabis flowers or hemp. When you vape CBD oil, you’re heating the active compounds in the oil, which produces the vapor. This eliminates the combustion or burning associated with smoking.
Advocates of vaping note that it is the fastest way to get CBD into your system. The effects of CBD are almost instantaneous when vaped. Tinctures under the tongue are the second-fastest, taking perhaps 10 to 30 minutes to take effect. Other edibles, such as capsules or candies, can take longer – 30 minutes or more – to pass through the digestion process and enter the bloodstream.
The top four vaping options
There are four basic options for vaping CBD oil: Pre-filled CBD vape pens, disposable CBD vape pens, pre-loaded disposable vape pens, and tank-type table-top vaporizers. Here’s a quick rundown of the four:
Pre-Filled CBD Vape Pen
Also called a CBD vape shot kit or CBD vape starter kit, these vape pens have two components, a battery (the vape’s base) and a cartridge. Pre-filled CBD pens are relatively inexpensive and are simple to use. You can buy whatever kind of cartridge you’d like, screw it onto the battery, and you’re ready to vape. The spent cartridges are thrown away.
Disposable CBD Vape Pen
Pre-loaded disposable CBD vape pens have just one component; a small standalone device that is about the size of a cigarette. Disposables are cheap, small, convenient, and come pre-loaded. You don’t ever need to recharge them between uses. They’re used once and thrown away.
Refillable or “Tank-Style” Vapes
“Tank-style” refillable vaporizers tend to produce big, billowing vape clouds. This style is most popular among former cigarette smokers who want to most closely mirror the experience of smoking. They have two components: the pen, or battery; and the oil, or e-liquid.
They’re a bit more cumbersome than the pre-filled and disposables, but they do have a loyal following. The refillable tank, or chamber, can be packed with different blends so the user can experiment with potency or flavors.
Table-top vaporizers are the least popular way to vape CBD oil, but not because they’re inferior to other methods. It’s that they’re large, expensive, and not particularly portable. Most table-top vaporizers include a wide range of complex features that you can’t find in portable vaporizers. They’re great for homebodies (or people who usually only consume at home), medical patients who are keen on extracting the highest amount of therapeutic elements possible. And – for those who use it for marijuana consumption – it is probably the best method for savoring the flavors and aromas of various cannabis varieties. Most of these devices are big and need to be plugged in to an electrical outlet, which of course limits their mobility. To inhale, vapers use either a bag that fills with vapor or a hose-like mouthpiece.
Where we place the vape
With all that said, we at Uptown CBD decided to not offer vape products. We offer only CBD products that are ingested by mouth or used on the skin as topicals. We don’t doubt the efficacy of vaping or smoking CBD any more than we doubt the efficacy of ingesting it or massaging it onto an achy spot. But we weighed some health and safety, and what might be called “social” factors, into our decision to not carry vape options.
Vaping was invented to provide tobacco users with an alternative to incinerating tobacco and inhaling into their lungs the nicotine-carrying smoke, which also contains more than 200 harmful substances, including cancer-causing arsenic, chromium, benzene and formaldehyde.
Vaping was marketed as a less noxious alternative to smoking, but federal regulations do not allow it to be marketed as a “safe” alternative. Studies that compared the effects of cigarette smoking with vaping generally found that smoking is definitely worse for our lungs and health than vaping. But compared with breathing anything but clean, fresh air, vaping is definitely the loser. Why?
It turns out that, while the vaped liquids in commercial tobacco substitutes and CBD products was not found to be harmful, the vaping equipment and process has potential hazards.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health analyzed vape devices gathered from actual users recruited for the study, released in 2018. (Prior studies looked only at newly purchased e-cigarettes.) They tested three elements: The liquid itself, the liquid inside of the vape pen’s chamber, and the aerosol (or vapor). They were specifically interested in whether the metal coil that vape pens use to heat the liquid in order to turn it into vapor was leeching or generating toxic metals.
There was not a significant amount of toxic metals in the e-cigarette liquid itself. But in over half of the e-cigs, the liquid inside the dispenser and the aerosol contained significant levels of chromium, nickel, and lead. Chromium and nickel have been linked to respiratory disease and lung cancer. And lead can cause neurotoxicity and cardiovascular disease — there is also no safe amount of lead exposure.
“It’s important for the FDA, the e-cigarette companies and vapers themselves to know that these heating coils, as currently made, seem to be leaking toxic metals—which then get into the aerosols that vapers inhale,” study senior author Ana María Rule, PhD, MHS, said in a statement.
Very little in life is entirely without risk, and taking actions whose potential benefits outweigh the possible risks is routine for most of us. But it’s up to us to decide the level of risk we are comfortable with, and this is a choice we have made – not a judgement. Vape proponents may argue that comparing the e-cig process with CBD vaping is apples and oranges, but our own research has left us with some doubt.
At the risk of belaboring our case, we’ll mention that the toss-away aspect of popular disposable vape pens, and the lack of recycling of spent vape gear components (including the batteries), is not environmentally in tune with the beneficial, body-positive qualities of CBD. (Yes, we hug trees, too.)
The benefits of CBD are known and research is uncovering new ones. We are glad to see its use growing, and encourage you to try it. If you prefer to vape, enjoy it with our blessing, but not our participation. You will find countless reputable vape vendors in your community and online.