• Vaping is a way of heating a substance without burning it to produce a vapour rather than harmful smoke. Traditional devices made for vaping herbal or solid cannabis were large, cumbersome, and expensive. Since the advent of e-cigarette vaping, a range of small and cheap vape devices are readily available.
  • Most devices are made for vaping e-liquid, although some of the new smaller devices claim they can also be used to vape herbal and powdered forms of a drug.
  • Although some people have experimented with vaping a range of drugs, the main drugs that are vaped are nicotine and cannabis (both THC and CBD).
  • Cannabis concentrates are often taken by dropping a small amount onto a hot surface and allowing it to vaporize before inhaling (known as ‘dabbing’).

Safer administration

  • Vaping devices should not be shared.
  • It is not possible to know the amount of THC in a mix or ready filled vape you have brought. It is also not possible to known (until you try it) if you have been mis-sold THC vape that contains a synthetic cannabinoid… ‘Spice’. It is always better to start with the lowest dose possible to gauge potency.
  • Real THC vape oil/liquid is very expensive to buy. If you see it for sale at £10-20 on social media, it’s almost certainly a rip off.
  • As cannabis concentrates contain much higher amounts of THC, the effects can be much stronger than herbal cannabis. It is always better to start with the lowest dose possible to gauge potency.
  • Although vaping avoids the risk from inhaling smoke, there are concerns that vaping THC may be very damaging to the lungs. Avoid inhaling too deeply, it may risk more damage and it won’t get you any more stoned.
  • Maintain devices Re-usable devices need to be maintained. The coil wears out and needs to be replaced, as frequently as every week. Stock up on replacement parts and change as required.
  • Manage batteries safely Batteries can catch fire or explode. Always charge, store, and use batteries as per the manufacturer’s instructions and dispose of safely via a battery recycling point. Check your local recycling centre website for more information on safe battery disposal.

Methods of vaping

Vapour is inhaled, drawn into the lungs and passes through the lining of the lungs into the bloodstream. It is then pumped through the heart and on to the brain.

The health risks of vaping

  • The exact chemistry and risks involved in vaping any drugs apart from nicotine and THC are mostly unknown.
  • The cannabinoid solvents used in THC-vaping devices are different from that used in nicotine-vaping devices. In the U.S., vitamin E acetate was added to thicken or dilute the THC vape liquid. It was the main culprit in 2,807 hospitalized cases of serious lung injury and 68 deaths were recorded in the U.S between 2019 and 2020. Upon heating in a THC vape pen, vitamin e acetate produces ketene – a highly potent lung toxicant.
  • A 2023 test in the UK found vitamin E acetate present in a THC vape. It is not known how widespread this is in UK THC vape liquid, as so few tests of this type have been conducted.
  • Quite apart from vitamin E acetate, there is also a concern about THC-O acetate that is used in as an additive in current US products.
  • There is no way of knowing if your THC vape liquid contains vitamin E acetate. There is no safe dose or safer way of using vape liquid that contains vitamin E acetate. If you are using THC vape pens or THC vape liquid, monitor yourself for symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath, chest pain) and promptly seek medical attention if you have concerns about your health.

Dependency risks

THC vape oil is sold in bottles or ready filled vape pens. If you have real THC vape this can be anywhere between 40-80% THC, so is a concentrated form of the drug. It is therefore much harder to judge dosage and much easy to experience negative effects. As a rule of thumb, the more potent the form of the drug using the more likely you will experience tolerance and dependence.

Smoking or vaping?

Although vaping is safer than smoking a cigarette, or smoking cannabis in a joint, pipe or bong, there may still be some risk of lung injuries. It is probably much easier to get ‘ripped off’ and end up with something more dangerous if you buy THC vape rather than traditional herbal cannabis.

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