If you haven’t heard, vaping is getting a lot of heat lately from consumer groups, government regulators, and more. What was once marketing heavily as “safer than smoking” is now putting a lot of people in the hospital with serious health issues. We’re going to be discussing a lot of vape-related issues here to ensure you fully understand what you’re getting yourself into. I smoke and vape myself, so I’m as interested as you are in figuring it all out. I’m alive so far, but I’m fully aware loss of breath is probably what will kill me. I’m 38 now and have been smoking pretty consistently for 20 years, while concurrently vaping for 10 of them. If I’m alive, I must be doing something right (or at least avoiding the insta-kill scenarios).
We also partnered with Vapor.com, which offers a variety of the latest vape equipment. If you click one of our affiliate links on this page, you’ll get a special price through them. It’s about as neutral as I could get to monetize this blog (and my life) without supporting any one cannabis, drug, or vape brand.
The reality is that you’re reading this because you can’t afford to keep buying vape equipment. These pieces can go from $10 for a c-cell battery up to $1000 for some high-end dab equipment. And let’s be clear right now – vaping a lot of the products on the market these days is very bad for you. Batteries can explode with cheap quality products. Even Samsung’s batteries exploded, do you really think your mostly unregulated vape company has better QC? But there are some safe ways to evaporate and consume drugs in these devices.
Some, like the Dr. Dabber Switch, are versatile water-cooled, portable heating devices that can be used to taste the full terpene profile of cannabis flower, lavender, even tobacco. Some can even vape crack, meth, DMT, or whatever else you want, so long as you can push enough heat to evaporate the substance (science you must Google for yourself). I’m not by any means selling the Dr. Dabber Switch, but I do own a ton of this vape gear manufacturers and retailers have sent me over the years.
Vaping is now a mature industry, having weathered a decade of regulations, pressure from big tobacco, and huge growth spurts. While city and state governments worked diligently to ban vaping nearly everywhere smoking is, vaping pioneers were busy marketing home-brewed e-liquids and imported e-cigarettes. There are specific types of vape devices for home or portable use.
Homemade vaping oils are all the rage, because it saves money, but vaping has moved far beyond that with a new generation of vape pens that can vape anything you want without the need of a carrier oil. They have ceramic, quartz, and titanium heating chambers and plates designed for herb, concentrate/powder, and liquid. These devices go way beyond a Juul or even pod-based and disposable vapes.
Check out the new methods of safely vaping drugs here. This post isn’t for judging what drugs you’re putting in your vape pens. We’re all for drugs – what we’re worried about is the other garbage in there. There’s plenty of info about how to dose drugs from medical professionals that will be better than anything I can tell you here.
What I can do is explain all the things around your house that you’re considering putting in your vape pens so you understand that not liquids are created equal. Here’s a breakdown of all the liquids laying around your house that you shouldn’t put in your vape pen (except vegetable glycerin and essential oils).
Vaping Vegetable Glycerin
Used in most nicotine retail eliquids, vegetable glycerin provides a subtle, yet thick “smoke” vapor. Used commercially in pharmaceuticals, foods, and more, vegetable glycerin was is as harmless as water, which is to say you can die if you inhale too much and it materializes in your lungs. It can be very bad for you, because you’re inhaling particles your lungs are designed to filter out. You’re replacing smoking’s sticky tar with glycerin, which is just as toxic to your lungs in large quantities. This is because it’s typically broken down by your liver. This is why it’s FDA-approved as safe to drink as cough syrup. According to MONQ, 6 hours of vape exposure per day (which is absolutely feasible for humans) is enough to inflame your lung cells. Keep in mind, you’ll be breathing it secondhand even when not vaping.
Vegetable glycerin and polypropylene glycol are what are found in most commercial vape products found in smoke and vape shops. These mixes also contain the flavorings found in candies and sodas. Vaping these oils is what the media is talking about when they discuss the dangers of “vaping.” That’s why President Trump focused on flavored e-cigarettes to get kids off vaping as a “healthy” alternative.
While not actually safe, VG/PG is nowhere near as harmful as the other oils around your house that you may be thinking of vaping. The initial vaping-related illnesses in this country were not being caused by vegetable glycerin in itself. It is simply the carrier agent for diacetyl, which is known to cause a condition called popcorn lung. It’s called this because diacetyl has a buttery flavor that’s commonly used as artificial butter on popcorn. Workers in popcorn factories developed this form of bronchitis, and popcorn got a disease named after it, just like Lou Gehrig.
Vaping Vegetable Oils
Vegetable glycerin is commonly derived from vegetable oil. You know how in Fight Club, they make soap from human fat and lye? Replace the human fat with vegetable fat, and that’s how vegetable glycerin is made. If animal fat is used, it’s just called glycerin (or glycerol). Vegetable oil is essentially glycerin + salt. When the alkaline (typically lye) is added to the solution, it separates the salts from the fats. The salts become soap, and the fats become glycerin.
You can technically vape vegetable oil (it does evaporate), but you shouldn’t. It’s not as pure as vegetable glycerin, which, as stated above, is also dangerous. On top of You risk lipid pneumonia because of the lipids present in vegetable oils. While they may sound and look the same, these liquids are very different, and the further you pull away from VG, the more unsafe it gets.
Keep in mind, canola oil, soybean oil, and any cooking oil is a vegetable oil, with the exception of lard animal fats. So while these oils will work in a vape pen (meaning they’re liquid and do evaporate when heated), it’s not recommended to do so. Droplets of fat will clog the pen and your lungs. You will die.
Here’s a video showing how to turn vegetable oil into glycerin (just like in Fight Club, but with vegetable oil).
Vaping Coconut Oil
New organic ejuices made from coconut oil instead of vegetable glycerin were used for a period from 2012-2018 all over recreational and medical cannabis dispensaries. Some sites (and conventional wisdom) will tell you impurities in the oil will clog your vaporizer, but there’s no more risk with coconut oil than any other vegetable oil. Still, coconut oil was regularly used as a thinning agent in cannabis vape cartridges and disposable pens before terpenes. This is because it was viewed in the American West Coast as “healthy,” and everyone had to replace everything with coconut something.
Leafly actually has a great article on the dangers of vaping oils, glycerins, and other chemicals you’re not familiar with. Don’t just randomly add liquids, even water, as it will harm you. Coconut oil is an oil like any other, and you should not be vaping it.
Glycerin is technically an alcohol, but that’s not what you’re actually thinking of when asking this question. You’re talking about liquor basically. Although alcohol can be vaped, it’s a terrible idea to do it through an ecig, which will heat the alcohol to combustible temperatures. It will turn your vape pen into a flame thrower, and you will not have a good time.
Vaporizing alcohol is done with pressure, and the facts of vaping has more information on how to accomplish this. Inhaling alcohol to get drunk (or taking it intravenously or as a suppository) bypasses your body’s natural filters and is very dangerous. Much smaller doses are needed to get you intoxicated. Still, here’s a video from Unbox Therapy on how to do it. Once a YouTuber made it popular, Buzzfeed and all the other clickbait sites jumped on it, so this info is readily available.
Do Not Vape Corn Syrup
Corn syrup is sometimes added to ejuice (as can honey, agave, and other viscous sweeteners), and it’s a terrible idea. Though similar to vegetable glycerin in many ways, corn syrup’s sugar content is as prone to ignite while vaping as alcohol.
It is not recommended to vape corn syrup. You’ll find this combustion happens if you try to vape tinctures as well, since they typically have other additives that aren’t vapable. You should also fear any sweetened ejuice flavors. These are going to kill you much faster than store-bought vape juices. You are better off smoking a cigarette than putting shit like corn syrup in your vape pen.
Tinctures are just CBD or THC dissolved in alcohol, so they should be vapable right? Wrong – they also include flavorings, oils, sugars, etc. They will likely catch on fire if you try vaping them, turning your vape pen into a mini flame thrower directly into the back of your throat.
Do not vape tinctures. If you’re lucky enough not to get massive burns in your throat, it’s going into your lungs, where it’s going to do much more damage than smoking. If you’re at a point where you’re throwing random things like this in your vape pen, just buy a fucking cigarette – you’ve long ago bypassed the point where “vaping is safer” than smoking. I promise.
Pure Concentrates in Cartridges
Most of the cannabis industry has already brought in experts and scientists from the oil industry to work on the viscosity of cannabis concentrates. Using the right methodology, the concentrates can be made viscous enough to vape in any standard vape pen without diluting in any glycerin or oil.
This is marketed as ideal, and the convenience of c-cell cannabis carts and disposable cannabis vape pens made a booming market. You’ll see live resin carts and all sorts of flavors using random terpenes that are naturally found in the plant.
This is done using the plants natural terpenes, which are easily found on the consumer market. Many of these terpenes are also found in other plants.
Unfortunately the greed in the cannabis vaping industry caused companies to put higher concentrations of (relatively) cheap terpenes into carts to use less cannabis. So your 80% THC concentrate already has 20% plant matter, and the companies are adding another 10% or more after the extraction to cut costs. And the truth is, no matter what your favorite cannabis brand is, they all do it. Orange and Pine essential oils are cheaper than THC, and margins are tight when everyone’s paying massive taxes to the government.
That’s what caused the vitamin E poisoning that’s killing people. That’s what’s new in this industry. I can’t walk into any dispensary in this country that’s not promoting fruit-flavored vape pens that aren’t based on cannabis strains at all. Blackberry, mango, strawberry – these flavorings in vape pens may be “natural,” but they’re not safe when they’re used to dilute concentrate to make profits.
Stop using prefilled vape anything from any company, no matter what. I have an AZ MMJ card and I will not buy any carts from any company. I don’t have to. There are a ton of vape pens on the market that can handle any type of concentrate. I’m not going to die just because some marijuana company wants to make more money.
Pure Concentrates with Dab Equipment
The safest way to “vape” is using dab pens or dab equipment. A dab pen differs from these carts in that you load your own pure concentrates into it. There is no reason to buy prefilled. Use your own concentrate. Modern vape pens like the Dr. Dabber Switch and Storz & Bickel Volcano can handle both pure concentrates and pure flower.
If the Dr. Dabber Switch is too big, check out some of these pens from Lynx, QloudUp, Firefly, Da Vinci, and others. Even a traditional C-cell tank can be filled manually.
You can also use essentially a crack pipe to vape pure cannabis concentrates in any form, regardless of viscosity.
Any of these methods of vaping pure concentrate pulls all the impurities down to the concentrate itself. And don’t be fooled – distillates, live resin, and any other concentrate still has impurities. That’s what gives it that amber color. And any impurities in the plant (i.e. mold, pesticides, heavy metals) are magnified in these concentrates. Testing is not as good as you’d think, even in regulated facilities.
Also you’re still vaping the equivalent of an essential oil of the cannabis plant. We have cannabinoid receptors in our body to handle most of it, but there’s still a lot we’re taking in. We don’t know yet what large amounts of cannabis do to your body until Willie Nelson or Snoop dies.
Vaping Pure Herbs
There are also a ton of great options for cheap pens ($100 or less) that can vape herbal matter. Kandypens K-Vape Pro, the AirVape X and other vape devices make very discrete ways to vape any type of herbal matter. I especially love the DaVinci IQ for the flavor chamber you can load with even more herbal matter to pull the vape through. That’s a safe way to add an herb like lavender or mint to your vaping experience, as the herb in the flavor chamber is never heated.
Like I said at the top – VG and ejuice vape pens are just the entry into vaping. Vape pens have gotten much more sophisticated over the past few years, and with the right pen, you can vape anything without the need of oils.
Even if you’re vaping herbs, there are risks associated. Not controlling the temperature (which isn’t always precise in every device) causes you to combust the plant matter instead of evaporating the resin on top. In addition, you’re still inhaling minimal amounts of impurities. In large quantities, this is sure to irritate your lungs.
Extractors are now running their machines to extract all essential Ayurvedic oils, such as lavender, peppermint, and more in order to infuse them with cannabis for vaping. This industry is booming and is now prolific across the United States as a replacement to flavored vegetable glycerins. But it was around longer than the legal cannabis or vape industries.
Like vegetable oil, these could give you pneumonia. On top of that, many essential oils aren’t safe to inhale. Just because a plant is edible doesn’t mean a super-concentrated version of it is safe to inhale. Cinnamon, for example, is safe, but cinnamon essential oil isn’t. Be very wary of these products. Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s safe.
Many ejuice companies utilize essential oils for natural flavorings. Keep in mind, most natural flavors are plant extracts (and the nicotine used on ecigarettes is an essential oil from the tobacco plant, just like cannabis concentrates are a form of essential oils).
Artificial flavorings are typically derived from insects. Whether any of these are actually safe to inhale is something the FDA is currently looking to find out. Food-grade doesn’t equate to inhalable.
Learn more about vaping essential oils in Ayurvedic Vaping…
With that said, vaping, like smoking, can have dangers. But certain types of vaping, like vaping pure concentrates and herbal matter in controlled doses under controlled temperatures, can have a lot of benefits for both medicinal and recreational users.
Vaping CBD, THC, and other active ingredients may even be safer than some of the sugary syrups and chemical-laced pills we’re given in hospitals. Even vaping opium, meth, DMT, mushrooms, ayahuasca, and all the other drugs found in the world can be done safely. Just understand the science of what you’re dosing, which I’m not going into here.The term “vaping” is nothing more than a consumption method. We use inhalers to take medications all the time. The only difference today is you have access to vaping as a habit. And we’re all overdoing it because we think something is “safe,” when it’s just minimally safer when you put thought into it and do your best to lower the associated risks.
Just please understand that vaping has a risk and a reward and try to stay safe. Don’t put random liquids in your vape pens, and know that no matter how you choose to do it, moderation is key.