Why I Avoid Cannabis Vape Pens

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I was first introduced to cannabis vape pens from another MMJ patient who was going on about how much they liked it for medicating. I tried it with excited anticipation and instantly felt let down by the experience. Although the effects were potent enough, it left me with a nasty taste of chemicals that really turned me off. I since have tried others from people who compellingly made arguments as to why their pen was good or their oil was superior  but something about the vape pen experience doesn’t feel right for me.

Plus, I have ongoing questions about these little medicating devices. The vape pen is a fairly new technology and the effects of long term use is not known. Are they really safe to be inhaling from regularly?

I decided to find out what experiences other patients are having when they use them. I talked to about 30 people who regularly use cannabis vape pens and here is what I found…

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People who use them love how discreet, convenient, and easy vape pens are for medicating on the go. They can be used pretty much anywhere. There were a few people who liked that the effects felt a little milder than dabbing their concentrates and that they were able to maintain an even level of homeostasis through their day.

The majority of people I talked to also had complaints about their vape pens. I repeatedly heard that they hated the taste, how frequently the pens break (even the spendy ones), oil leakages, how frequently they require cleaning, and how disappointingly mild the vape pen experience is for them. Two people told me that their pens gave them a cough and I also met a person who had a vape pen battery blow up in his hands causing severe burns to his palm and fingers.

I really wanted to find out what materials most people’s pens were made out of but the majority didn’t really know what their pens were constructed of. A lot of the pens that I have seen are made with plastic and/or have a lot of plastic parts although some are made with glass, ceramic and metal.

Let me be real here for a second. I don’t know of what parallel time warped universe I would need to live in for it to be okay to heat up anything plastic and breathe it into my lungs in an effort to ingest cannabis. Everything about that makes my body and brain cringe. I’ve heard repeated stories of people’s pens off-gassing the first few times a new pen is used but nobody has been able to tell me what chemicals they may have inhaled during those first few hits or any other chemicals they may be inhaling from the device itself with continued use. I don’t dig that.

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Then there is this little question I have about polyethylene glycol (PEG), the chemical that can be found in pre-filled oil cartridges to give the product a more fluid consistency.  Is this chemical safe to heat and breathe? While PEG is generally accepted as safe to consume, little seems to be known about the long term effects of consuming it through inhalation. Most people I talked to had little clue what PEG was although one person informed me it was also an ingredient found in antifreeze. The internet was not an overly helpful source. I found sites saying it was safe, maybe even “good for you” and I found sites saying it should never be inhaled. What is one supposed to believe?

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Since cannabis medicating is part of my long term health management plan I would like to know that the ways I am using it will not cause harm to my body.

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And, if I am inhaling unknown toxic chemicals with my medicine, is it really medicine anymore? Until more about the safety of vape pens is known, I will skip that electronic puff puff and just pass.


35 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Renee h on March 7, 2014 at 9:54 pm

    Thanks for writing about the e-pens. I had been thinking about buying one but had not thought about the points you brought up. Thanks for your blog. I love it and will be following from now on.

  2. Hi Renee,
    Thank you so much for reading and sending me comments! It keeps me motivated. Have an awesome day!

  3. Posted by JoyLia on March 16, 2014 at 11:55 am

    Yuck. I’d rather juice.

  4. Haha, totally. Your comment makes me laugh. Juice on.

  5. Posted by Susan on April 1, 2014 at 7:34 pm

    Hi, thanks for the good info. I try to avoid PEG’s in skin and body care products, I had heard they were really bad. Same with propylene glycol which is a Hazmat chemical, alone you have to wear a hazmat suit! It is in lots of cosmetics, and body products. My husband has been told to stop all smoking what so ever due to cancer, his daughter wanted him to look at the pen, he said he can’t smoke anything, even if cold(?), and clean, it is still going down his airways.
    please keep us posted.

  6. Thanks for your comments. I would recommend vaporizing over smoking for a similar effect without taking carcinogens and heat into the lungs. My best to you and your family during such a challenging time.

  7. Posted by Joseph on April 15, 2014 at 8:24 am

    I have been using vape pens myself for a few months, and found a product (Eureka Cartridges with Medicali Vape Pen) that is everything I’m looking for in terms of affect. However, while it doesn’t make me cough or give me any of the problems that smoking used to give me (i.e. lung/throat related problems) I very often feel like I’m inhaling gasoline fumes or something, the chemical taste lingering in my mouth. I wish the companies that made these products were a little more informative.

    Have you done any more research? What method are you using to inhale now?

  8. Hi Joseph, I have only tried a few more pens and I know I still don’t like them. My biggest complaint is the same as yours- they taste gross and you don’t really know what you are inhaling. I have a little portable flower vaporizer (PAX by Ploom) that works for me. It’s not as discreet smell wise, but all I taste from it is terpenes and I can control the quality of flowers that go into it. If I ever find a pen that I like, you’ll here about it. Thanks for reading!


  9. Posted by deusopus on April 29, 2014 at 8:46 pm

    I just got done reading the Wikipedia on PEG and I wonder if you have. Seems pretty benign to me.

  10. Posted by deusopus on April 29, 2014 at 8:47 pm

    Didn’t see anything in there about antifreeze btw…

  11. Hi Deusopus, I agree that the information on the internet about inhaling from vape pens is limited and look forward to credible research being done as these devices become even more popular.

  12. Posted by Flip on June 14, 2014 at 2:02 pm

    Thanks for this post man. Im glad im not the only person who thinks this. I recently got a vape pen from my travels to Colorado. Im towards thw end of my cartridge and cant help but feel like im vaping plastic. I have a new cartridge and it actually tastes like hash oil but the used tastes so much like plastic I feel like I might be smoking myself to death… but ya after this last cartridge I will be done until they I can come up on something a little more high quality.

  13. How awesomely uninformative this is…

  14. Your comment made me smile today. Thank you for reading this S***.

  15. Pot vaporizers have become increasingly popular across the world because
    they harness an ample number of power and provide a purer
    smoking knowledge.

  16. Posted by Eric on July 10, 2015 at 4:53 pm

    Here I Oregon I buy a Glycol free pen. I became aware with it when I was noticing the differences in the ones with it making me caugh, vs not. I also avoid the butane extract!!

  17. Posted by Mari Arnold on July 14, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    Try reading Mayo Clinic research. Just recently a woman died because the oils in Vape form are uncontrolled and you have NO idea what they contain.

  18. Posted by Bobby Heads on July 21, 2015 at 5:03 pm

    Do you need a script from a doctor for the vape Cannibis ?

  19. Posted by Dan on July 29, 2015 at 10:11 pm

    Thank you Twicebaked, I was looking into pens. I am seeing Eureka vape cartridges are now CO2 extracted should this elevieate any of my concerns?

  20. Hi Dan, I would always be curious to know if the oil in the pen has been cut with PG and how the pen is constructed. If it feels like a good product that is working for you, awesome.

  21. Hi Bobby, It depends where you live. In WA it is legal for any adult to vape cannabis. Peace, TWiceBakedinWA

  22. As someone who’s been using them for years and have tried several by now I can tell you that you get what you pay for as well as not all of them taste bad and make you cough.There are flavored ones by Various brands like I heavy hitters and tetra labs, those are basically the ones I would recommend as they all have the most thc and the best tastes..anything under 40 bucks though isn’t going to taste that great or give you the kind of high you really want..It literally is a situation where you will never know until you try the right one and it’s hard to make decisive spending decisions with these especially if you have never tried them..If it wasn’t for me being determined to find one that worked perfectly I would have never found these..The heavy hitter cartridge I have right now is blueberry flavored and gets the job done like so other..

  23. Thanks for sharing.

  24. […] Vaping: This solves most problems in the moment. Anxiety, pain, and nausea are all made better with a few inhales of vaped flower or concentrate. […]

  25. Posted by Tim Hunt on January 7, 2016 at 5:21 pm

    I enjoyed your post. I have copd and decided to try a disposable vape pen made by EvoLab. After a few hits I took a look at the ingredients and was shocked to see 32 chemical additives.I can’t believe this a healthy option. I’m hoping for some kind of oversight into the manufacture of these devices.

  26. Hi Tim! Thanks for sharing. The manufacturing of vape pens is an interesting one. These cannabis companies putting their amazing high quality concentrates in low quality cartridges and pens is something I hope they figure out soon. And we can speak with our dollars by not spending money on crap products hoping they will be good.

  27. Posted by Chris on January 28, 2016 at 8:13 am

    I complely agree and find it a breath of fresh air hearing someone else say it. Dabs with a bong for me 🙂

  28. Posted by Tig on May 5, 2016 at 4:08 pm

    Hi TB,

    Thanks for the article. I’m a former cig smoker and don’t care for the PEG taste in the vapes for my MM. I have used 100% marijuana oil from my dispensary and that was awesome tasting. Sadly the 100% oil pens leak, Leak, frakkin LEAK!! Until someone crafts a vape cartridge for 100% oil, I’m gonna stick to the concentrates.

    Now for the older “smokers” who seem to have issues with “new” stuff I have to reccommend they drop the cash on a Storz and Bickel Volcano. I bought mine about 4 years ago, and while you really have issues if you want to travel with it, for vaporizing actual flower there is nothing better imho.

    You grind, grind, grind your green up and the Volcano simply uses a chamber for the herb that sits atop the actual Volcano (it looks like one too) and all it does is blow hot air through it and that fills a food service bag that you inhale from. The temp of the air is the key and it is very adjustabkr and accurate (367ºF is perfect for me). The taste is mind blowing, and the quality of the ‘cano is excellent (German produced).

    Thanks again for looking into the vapes, hopefully you’ll update us once more info is available.

  29. Posted by Katherine on May 27, 2016 at 1:11 pm

    Thanks so much for your thoughts on this. I have really enjoyed the convenience, but have had comcerns about it’s safety. I have severe kidney damage. I think what I’ll plan to do is finish the cartridges I have, and go back to flower. That you said makes sense. Thanks for the information!

  30. Posted by Dr. J Michael Chimpanothaniel on June 11, 2016 at 6:26 pm

    Uhmm, very awesome page and posts in general but please don’t spread misinformation… there is absolutely NO peer-reviewed study indicated vaporizing eliminates ALL carcinogens… in fact, it would be silly to believe so or tell people this. Vaporization is less harmful than combustion, NOBODY will deny this, but to claim vaping is harmless?? FOOLISH. the costs x risk may be less than the benefits (which they most are IMO) or they may not be. only peer-reviewed placebo controlled randomized trials will tell us in the near future… in the not so near future, we’ll understand the exact biochemical mechanism and statistical risk. RN, uhhhh NO. Please don’t spread misinformation you DONT HELP THE MEDICAL CANNABIS CAUSE IN THE LONG RUN!!!
    Don’t get it twisted… vaping is LESS carcinogenic but in all likelihood, still will cause cancer in the long run… the risk factor is just significantly less.

  31. I’m not sure where you read this misinformation in my post that vaporizing eliminates all carcinogens, none the less I appreciate your passion for the cause. -TBinWA

  32. Thanks Katherine, for reading and sending your good words. I’ll stick to vaping organic flowers too. 😉 -TBinWA

  33. Thanks for reading, Tig, and sending your informative words. Vape on. -TBinWA

  34. Posted by rusty on June 17, 2016 at 12:45 pm

    Pure subjective nonsense. I can’t believe people will heed your points when all your arguments are purely emotional.
    Every single item you can purchase in a store has both conscientious and unscrupulous manufacturers. There is a peanut processing plant that knowingly shipped out peanuts contaminated with Salmonella. But according to your piss poor logic you would conclude that peanuts are the devil’s nuts.
    The truth of the matter is that there are unscrupulous vape mfg’s who will cut corners and add all manner of bad stuff in their cartridges. However, there are tons of great companies putting out pure safe vapes free of ALL harmful chemicals.
    Impugning an entire industry just to pad your whiny blog just about makes you the most uninsightful person on the internet.

  35. Hi Rusty. Thanks for reading my blog and taking the time out of your busy schedule to send comments. Peace. -TBinWA

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