Silver cannabis vape pen on wooden table with sparks flying around the background

Cannabis Vaping Update: Are Vapes Safe in 2022?

Three years following the vape lung disease outbreak, consumers should still use caution when selecting a cannabis vaping product

By Katherine Golden, RN

Understanding the Vape Crisis

Our mission at Leaf411 is to provide balanced information and guidance for the safe and effective use of cannabis. When thousands of U.S. citizens became ill and hospitalized with a lung injury associated with vaping in 2019, consumer concern about cannabis vaping increased dramatically. The illness, which became known as “e-cigarette or vaping use-associated lung injury” (or EVALI) resulted in 68 reported deaths by February 2020. Researchers determined the likely cause of the illness was additives in the vape cartridges. This included additives like vitamin E acetate, MCT oil and others that were being used in some THC-containing vape cartridges, primarily in the illicit market. Leaf411 wrote about the issue at the height of the crisis to give consumers the best information on how to use vape products safely. 

Today, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that emergency room visits due to EVALI have sharply declined. They cite increased public awareness of the issue, the removal of vitamin E acetate and other additives from products and a law enforcement crackdown on illicit products. However, that does not mean the risk to consumers has disappeared completely. 

Tips for choosing a safe cannabis vape

Leaf411 wants to remind consumers to use vigilance and common sense when purchasing cannabis vape products to ensure they are only utilizing safe, legal products. The following are tips you should consider when purchasing a vape product:

  • Purchase vape products only sold through state-licensed cannabis retailers or licensed delivery services–never from the illicit market. Licensed retailers are required by the state to have their products lab tested to ensure safety.
  • Do not consume cartridge concentrates that contain additives such as Vitamin E acetate, polyethylene glycol (PEG), propylene glycol (PG), MCT oil, coconut oil or any other emulsifiers or synthetic agents. While some of these ingredients are safe to eat, they are not safe to vaporize and inhale.
  • Only consume concentrates that are third-party lab tested and designed specifically for vaping.
  • Ask the dispensary retailer or product manufacturer to provide the certificates of analysis (COA) for the products purchased. The lab results on a COA include the cannabinoid profile, pesticide testing and other critical information about the contents of the cartridge. Budtenders, clinicians and Leaf411 nurses can help answer your questions about the COA.

Remember that the vast majority of products implicated in vape-related illnesses and deaths were purchased from illegal vendors. In addition to problematic additives, many illicit vape pods and cartridges were found to contain dangerous synthetic marijuana instead of actual CBD or THC. So never buy vape products sold through illegal market sources or from non-licensed dispensaries. These products are likely not tested and can be easily counterfeited. To find a trusted manufacturer or dispensary, please review the Leaf411 member directory.

The Leaf411 cannabis nurse hotline, chat and scheduled nurse guidance call services provide education and directional support to the general public about the safe use of legal cannabis. We partner with select business members who meet our rigorous standards to extend our education and outreach efforts.