Saying “Vaporization is a health crisis” is the equivalent of saying “Cooking is a health crisis.” Vaporizing simply means boiling. What you consume, how you boil and who is consuming it is the real issue.
What’s happening out there is the equivalent of kids eating poison-fish tacos, but headlines read “tacos are dangerous.” We’re missing the point, causing misinformation and bad policy.
Let’s break this down: As a method of consumption, inhaling vapor is very fast and effective, and people use it when they want the effects to be felt quickly. Your humidifier is also a vaporizer. Vaporization is simply a method of consumption, but we indeed have three clear problems that we are facing.
First off, let’s take a look at “the what” of the issue — essentially the substance you consume matters. There are two parts of this problem specifically. To begin, many people are consuming a highly addictive substance: nicotine.
Methods of consumption (vapor, smoking, patches, chewing etc.) or flavors aren’t the reason people consume nicotine: The substance has persisted through the ages because it is addictive. Nicotine and tobacco products are regulated, but we have many gaps to fill in access to the substance (to be elaborated later).
Secondly, since the legal cannabis market is still in its early stages, many people are turning to black market alternatives. The black market is not regulated and there are no consequences if unsafe additives, cutting or diluting agents are added.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Vitamin E Acetate is strongly linked to — and is seen as the primary culprit in — causing lung illness and in extreme cases, death. Vitamin E Acetate is just one additive that could cause issues, so if you are buying on the black market, know that you are not only risking legal repercussions, but you are also risking your health and possibly your life.
The rule should be simple: know exactly what it is you are consuming, where it comes from, how it was made and have access to a lab report, even if you are buying legal products. If you don’t understand it, you shouldn’t consume it.
Another part of the problem is “the how.” Vaporizers must be clean and boil clean. Just as in cooking, it is quite possible to introduce contaminants while vaporizing. Not all vaporizers are created equal. Many devices, especially ones available on the black market are not made using food safe materials.
This can cause contamination in the form of heavy metals or outgassing. Food safe materials are more expensive and are sometimes harder to work with, but it’s very important that the vaporizer you use is clean. Look for food safe products only.
Next, keep in mind, you are trying to boil, not burn. If the vaporizer is causing that subtle burn in the back of your throat, it is likely hotter than needed to boil. This diminishes the idea of boiling and takes you back towards burning: not a good idea.
Finally, who is vaping? Vaporizing is an adult decision. We need to use all technologies and tools at our disposal to prevent underage use. A smart combination of technology and regulation has the power to make unauthorized access to legal products incredibly difficult.
Higher standards of age verification, smart cartridges and devices have a powerful part to play in tandem with better regulation. Vapor technology innovators like Airgraft, GoFire and Pax are working hard to provide technology solutions to these problems and are making significant progress.
When looking at complex issues, there is a tendency to look for a “culprit,” as it’s a natural human reaction. Policymakers are under pressure to spring to action quickly, but when they don’t understand the problems accurately, they unintendedly create bad policy. It might satisfy the need to quickly “get something done,” but the results are undesirable. Prohibition is a notoriously counterproductive tactic.
For example, banning vaping has pushed people to black market and smoking, which is just the opposite of the policy intent. To effectively solve problems, we must first define them and be objective and evidence based. All the solutions are in our toolbox: technology, regulation to ensure quality standards of product and access control for minors.
Regulation should also consider that if we don’t incentivize people to use legal, regulated products, we will still have the black market. If regulation adds too much cost, too much friction or results in poor selection, we will be ineffective.
We should acknowledge that although we don’t yet have the wealth of data to conclusively say “vaping is 100 percent safe,” there is a lot of evidence that vaporization greatly reduces carcinogens and toxins in comparison to smoking.
As always, we should consume responsibly and stay educated about choices.