Vaping has found itself under a media spotlight due to alleged links to respiratory illnesses and, in some cases, even death. While it was once seen as a healthy alternative to cigarette smoking, many people are now asking themselves, ‘Is vaping bad for you?’ While the media panic is centred on e-cigarettes, it’s only natural that health-conscious dry herb users are regarding their own vapes with caution. Should you be concerned about these media reports?
Before we can answer that question we have to look into the roots of the crisis and the differences between e-cigarettes and dry herb vaporizers.
The Vaping Health Crisis
E-cigarettes, or vape pens, are generally seen as a healthy alternative to help cigarette users to quit smoking. However, they have always been dogged by health concerns, from their highly addictive properties, to popcorn lung disease, and even cardiovascular disease. In recent months health concerns have coalesced into a full on crisis and the allegations have become increasingly plausible.
A sudden spike in vape-related illnesses shot into the headlines in August. It has so far culminated in 380 related illnesses and 6 deaths. These reports prompted a statement from New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo, announcing his a ban on flavoured e-liquid, a sentiment shared by President Trump who announced a similar ban on a federal level.
These measures are intended to make e-cigarettes less appealing to under-age users. Juul e-cigarettes in particular have found themselves at the centre of this controversy with critics claiming that their slick marketing and range of fruity flavours are enticing young people and high school students to adopt a vaping habit. E-cigarettes hold a lot of risks for younger users with a potential to impact brain development causing addiction issues and poor impulse control.
The conditions being linked to vaping range from nausea and difficulty breathing to fatal cases of acute respiratory distress, where the victim’s lungs fill with fluid, asphyxiating them. New York doctors have reported 60 cases linked to vape use and claim that this number is expected to rise. At time of writing, doctors have yet to identify what the exact roots of the reported illnesses are, however the CDC has made a statement recommending that people stop vaping. A study from The New England Journal of Medicine links the majority of studied cases to unapproved THC-infused e-liquids. These e-liquids use vitamin-e acetate as a thickening agent in their THC. These e-liquids are not regulated by an official body, and vitamin-e acetate is not present in any of the brands found in legitimate vape shops. However this is just one theory of dozens. Everything from the chemical composition of e-liquid to the metals used in vape heating coils.
The Difference Between E-Cigarettes and Dry Herb Vapes
The e-cigarette health scare is an on-going investigation, and more time is needed before the exact roots of the crisis are found, but should this be a concern for anyone who vapes dry herbs? In short, no.
E-cigarettes and dry herb vaporizers share the name ‘Vape’, a range of battery powered units, and a ubiquitous ‘vape pen’ design, but that’s essentially where the similarity ends. E-cigarettes use a heating coil, called an atomizer, that uses a cotton wick to draw special e-liquid solution towards it with capillary action. Once the e-liquid makes contact with the coil it instantly evaporates, allowing the user to inhale it. Atomizers are designed to activate instantly and to be frequently replaced.
Dry herb vaporizers, on the other hand, tend to use more indirect heating elements. Rather than using super-heated coils, vaporizers use one of two types of heating system, conduction and convection. Both forms generally use safe conductive materials like ceramic, aluminium, and even titanium. The difference lies in how they heat your herb. Conduction heating works directly on herb, similar to a kitchen stove. Convection, heats the air around the herb, gradually ‘baking’ it like an oven. Whatever the method the key difference is that there is no need to use a special solution, the active ingredients are evaporated directly out of the plant matter.
In short, when you take a hit from an e-cigarette you are inhaling a solution of glycerine and nicotine. However, doctors fear that the interactions between the e-liquid and the coils could release potentially toxic chemicals and heavy metals. When you draw from a dry herb vape you are inhaling the natural compounds found in the herb and water found naturally in the plant.
Vaping Dry Herb v Smoking
E-cigarettes were once upheld as a safer alternative to smoking regular cigarettes. The ongoing health crisis has cast a lot of doubt onto this claim. What of dry herb vaping? Thousands of blogs, articles, sales pitches, and personal testimony have celebrated dry-herb vaporizers as a clean and safe alternative to smoking, but do these still hold up?
In short, yes.
When herb is burned it releases all of its active ingredients, but it also releases carbon, toxins, and soot. The burning plant matter can be a long-term risk to a users health. Not even filters or water pipes can totally filter out these harmful particulates. On top of this, the smoke produced by combustion has its own battery of harmful side-effects for the dry herb user and those around them.
However, as we described above, vaping dry herb evaporates all the active ingredients while leaving the plant matter behind with all the toxins, carbon, and soot still locked up inside it. This means that people who suffer from respiratory issues such as asthma will find that vaping dry herb is far more comfortable than smoking it, making it the most accessible method of consuming medicinal herb in its dried form.
Is vaping bad for you? Well, It’s safe to say that when it comes to dry herb consumption, vaping is far more healthy.
The vape crisis will dominate the headlines for some time, and it is certainly an important topic to explore. However, if you only vape medicinal herb with a dry herb vaporizer you have nothing to worry about. Few of the potential roots of the e-cigarette health crisis crossover with the functions of dry herb vaporizers and nearly all the cases investigated are linked to e-liquid use rather than dry herb.