The popularity of using vape pens as an alternative to smoking weed has increased dramatically over the last couple of years. Some of the reasons why vape pens have become so popular are that they are discreet, convenient, and relatively inexpensive. Unlike joints which require a little bit of preparation time to roll etc., vape pens (particularly the disposable variety) are ready to use right away, which makes them a more convenient way to consume your cannabis on the go.
Vape pens are a pretty simple electronic device which is a progression from the original nicotine vapes that hit the market a few years ago. They have a battery which powers the heating element in them called an atomizer, a sensor which is activated by simply inhaling on the vape pen or by pressing a button, and a wick which absorbs the cannabis oil. It is very important to be aware that the quality of vape pens on the market tends to vary wildly. It is hugely important to source a top quality vape pen to get the most out of your vaping experience.
There are a wide variety of vape pens out on the market which fall into two separate and distinct categories, i.e., refillable and disposable. Vape pens come with either a disposable prefilled cartridge which you simply discard once they are depleted or with refillable tanks which you can put your CBD e-juice or THC oil in again and again. A refillable CBD vape pen, for example, is a vape pen which you can continuously refill with CBD e-juice after you have vaped its contents. These type of vape pens usually come with a refillable tank which connects to a rechargeable battery.
The simple pen-style design makes using vape pens extremely discreet while on the go. One advantage of a refillable CBD vape pen is that is typically lighter and smaller than your average mod and tank setup. Some CBD vape pens are suitable for direct lung vaping while others offer a better mouth-to-lung draw. While refillable pod vapes are designed for vaping nicotine, they also provide an alternative way to vape CBD e-juice.
What’s the Difference Between a Disposable and Refillable Vape Pen?
As mentioned above, a disposable vape pen contains a prefilled cartridge containing CBD e-juice or THC oil. Disposables contain a battery to power the atomizer, a tiny heating element which converts the liquid e-juice or oil into airborne droplets that you inhale. One advantage of disposable vapes is that you don’t need to buy a separate battery or compatible pod system; they come with everything you need. They are also easy to use because they are generally draw activated, which means they only produce vapor when you inhale.
While disposables contain a certain amount of CBD e-juice or cannabis oil which you simply discard once they are empty, refillables can be reused again and again. With refillable vape pens, you do have additional costs as you have to purchase your CBD e-juice or cannabis concentrate oil separately. However, refillables are generally considered to be more cost-effective in the long run than disposables, because of the comparatively small amount of CBD relative to their cost.
Another significant advantage that refillables have over disposables is that they come with adjustable airflow and power settings, which allows you to customize your vaping experience to your own preferences. By adjusting the settings, you can opt for a direct lung vape with larger clouds or alternatively a tighter draw. It is recommended that you start with the lowest setting on the vape pen and adjust according to your own preference from there.
Refillable vape pens do have some downsides; the initial cost, as already mentioned is higher than buying a cheaper disposable vape pen. Unlike disposables which are activated by simply inhaling on them, refillables have different settings which will take a bit of getting used to before you can get the best vaping experience. Refillables also require some maintenance as you will be using them multiple times as opposed to discarding them once they are empty.
Some things to bear in mind when you are vaping on the go is to make sure that you always have your vape pen sufficiently charged. In terms of refilling the cartridge, you need to fill it enough so that the wicking holes on the outside of the coil housing are covered. Once filled, leave the cartridge for about 30 minutes to give the thick, viscous oil time to soak into the wick. It is advisable to replace the cartridge as soon as you notice that the flavor or performance are dropping off; this will prevent wasting any oil.
Are Refillable Vape Pens Safe and Should You Use Them?
As mentioned above, the quality of vape pens varies widely, and it is highly recommended that when you are choosing a vape pen you don’t merely go for the cheaper option, as to do so can potentially compromise your health. Top of your list when deciding on what vape pen to purchase should be sourcing a reputable manufacturer with a proven record of producing top-quality vape pens.
The raw cannabis oil, which is the source of the e-juice or THC oil used for vaping, is naturally much too thick and viscous in its original form to be suitable for vaping. It has to go through a thinning process to turn it into a more liquid form. It is the presence of harsh and sometimes toxic chemicals used in the thinning process which presents one of the greatest health risks to the consumer.
Two of the most commonly used thinning agents are propylene glycol and polyethylene glycol, both of which can potentially be broken down into carcinogenic (cancer-causing) compounds like formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, which can happen when they are sublimated in high-temp vape pen cartridges. A 2010 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that propylene glycol, even when inhaled in low concentrations, could potentially cause asthma, allergic reactions, and other respiratory problems.
The emerging consensus is that the temperature of a vape pen’s heating coil is one of the most important – if not the most important – factors in avoiding the potentially harmful risk of thinning agents being broken down into carcinogenic compounds like formaldehyde during the sublimation process. The cheaper vape pens out there on the market tend to contain coils which sublimate cannabis oil at a much higher temperature than necessary, which increases the health risks for the consumer.
Another potential health risk associated with vape pens, particularly the inexpensive ones, is the one posed by the inhalation of cuticle wax contained in cannabis oil. Most flowering cannabis plants, including hemp, have an oily, fatty outer layer of lipid, known as cuticle wax, covering their surface. When smoking cannabis, cuticle wax is combusted and burned away, and it is believed that this mitigates any potential respiratory health risk. The problem is that this doesn’t happen when vaping at lower temperatures.
So, what are the potential health risks, if any, to inhaling cannabis oil containing cuticle wax? Well, the jury is still out on that one, because there haven’t been any empirical studies conducted so far in relation to this. However, experts at the cannabis analysis laboratory Steep Hill Labs speculated in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine in October 2017 that vaping cannabis oil containing cuticle wax could lead to the formation of solidified granulomas in the lungs over time.
What consumers can do if they have any concerns about this is opt for CBD oil which has undergone a process known as “winterization.” During the winterization process, a solvent and cold temperatures are used to remove the cuticle wax, lipids and other oil compounds from the cannabis plant.
Final Thoughts on Refillable Vape Pens
While disposable vape pens offer a more convenient and discreet way to vape, refillable vape pens have the added benefit of allowing you to customize your vaping experience to your own tastes. Most refillable pens have adjustable airflow and power settings so you can opt for a direct lung vape with larger clouds or a tighter cigarette-style draw, depending on your own preference.
Refillables do require a little more knowledge to use them than disposables and come with additional costs as you have to purchase your e-juice or THC oil separately. They are less convenient than a disposable in that sense, and if you have to refill them on the go, then they are also less discreet than disposables, too.
The question you need to ask yourself when deciding on whether to opt for a refillable or a disposable vape pen is, ‘do I want a more discreet and convenient vape pen which I can discard once I’m done with it, or do I want a vape pen with different settings so that I can customize my vaping experience to my own taste?’
If you want to use refillable vape pens, then it is important to bear in mind the risks that vaping entails, such as potentially exposing yourself to carcinogenic substances like formaldehyde, particularly when using a cheaper vape pen with a higher-temp coil. One way to protect yourself from this risk is by choosing a high-quality, more expensive, refillable vape pen with adjustable settings. Also, if the potentially harmful effects of inhaling cannabis oil containing cuticle wax are of concern to you, then you should try to source a CBD oil which has undergone the process of winterization.