A Closer Look at the Safety Concerns Regarding Vaping Cannabis

Ashley Priest

Posted by Ashley Priest on 08/02/2023 in Research and Studies


Vaping cannabis is a very popular consumption method that has been widely embraced by individuals globally. This method of utilizing cannabis has long been thought to be the safer option in comparison to smoking dried plant material. However, that thinking has started to change in recent years, and many consumers are starting to take a closer look at the safety concerns regarding vaping cannabis.

Before we explore this topic, let’s take a look at what vaping is, how it works, and what components are within the products being vaped.

Vaping is an inhalation method of consuming cannabis that is done utilizing an electronic device. These devices are similar to those utilized to vape nicotine. In the case of cannabis, extracted cannabinoids such as THC, CBD, and others are combined with other liquified ingredients, which we will discuss below. This liquid is heated by the electronic device, which produces vapor that the end consumer then inhales. The most common ingredients added to concentrated cannabinoids in order to produce vapable cannabis are Propylene Glycol (PG) and Vegetable Glycerin (VG).    

Why is Vaping So Popular

Aside from the belief that it is the safer and healthier alternative to smoking, there are other reasons why consumers embrace vaping. One is the potency of cannabis vapes in comparison to the potency of cannabis flowers. Vape juice for cannabis vaping is made utilizing extracted cannabinoids in a concentrated form which tends to offer anywhere from 40-99% THC. Vaping is also much more discreet in comparison to smoking as the aroma doesn’t tend to be as strong or linger as long as smoke from burning cannabis plant material. Like with smoking, vaping produces an almost instantaneous effect making it a go-to product for cannabis patients and consumers alike.

Potential Safety Concerns Related to Vaping Cannabis

The health risks associated with smoking are widely documented, especially when in relation to smoking tobacco. However, it has also been proven that there are similar carcinogens within the smoke that is inhaled when smoking cannabis. But what about vaping? Vaping, in the grand scheme of things, is a relatively new way of consuming various substances in comparison to smoking; therefore, there is less research surrounding the potential health risks that it presents. What we do know is that there are potential safety concerns related to vaping cannabis that everyone should be aware of. While research is somewhat limited, here are a few of the related studies that have been published in recent years.

  •  According to this 2018 study, for new consumers of cannabis or those that do not consume it frequently, vaping is more likely to cause adverse reactions compared to smoking.
  • This 2021 study from researchers at the University of Michigan suggests that adolescents who vape cannabis have an increased risk of developing respiratory symptoms that indicate lung injury in comparison to those that smoke cannabis or cigarettes.
  •  Another study found cannabis vaping to be more harmful than vaping nicotine. This study suggested that vaping cannabis could increase the risk of respiratory issues, elevate existing respiratory symptoms, as well as suppress vaccination immune responses.

The Potential Dangers of Inhaling Common Vape Additives

Like with many additives to products, there are associated risks to vaping and inhaling additives in cannabis vape products such as Propylene Glycol (PG) and Vegetable Glycerin (VG). According to the National Institutes of Health, “The FDA has deemed PG safe for decades and has been used in many popular foods. VG is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the US Food and Drug Administration.” Though ingredients like PG and VG have been considered safe for decades, their primary use has been in food and cosmetics. When it comes to inhaling these components, according to Biomed Central, the effects “can accumulate over time and lead to chronic lung disease.”

Other potential side effects are headaches, chest tightness, nausea, congestion, coughing, dehydration, or on rare occasions, allergic reactions. When PG and VG are mixed with flavorings, it can lead to acetals, which come with a whole other set of risks. 

As you can see, there are potential risks associated with vaping cannabis. Now, does this mean that you should, beyond a doubt, avoid vaping cannabis? Absolutely not. In fact, millions of people enjoy cannabis via vaping on a daily basis without any immediate adverse effects. Does this mean that they won’t experience long-term issues if they continue to regularly vape cannabis? It’s hard to say. As with anything you consume, or any new consumption method, you should always take it low and slow until you know how it will personally affect you. There are also some things you can do to help minimize any potential long-term risks from vaping cannabis, which we will discuss below. First, though, we cannot address the potential safety concerns associated with vaping cannabis without mentioning what some have referred to as the great vape epidemic.

The Great Vape Epidemic

Starting in 2019, there was a significant outbreak of vaping-related lung injuries. This outbreak of e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury, also known as EVALI, includes more than 2,800 documented hospitalizations or deaths per the CDC as of February 2020. This outbreak was determined to be caused primarily by illegally obtained cannabis vape products that contained a compound known as Vitamin E Acetate. This ingredient is sometimes added as a thickening agent and has also been found in products sold in legal cannabis markets. Symptoms and side effects of EVALI include but are not limited to the following.

  • Allergic Reaction
  • Chronic Lung Disease
  • Congestion
  • Dehydration
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Gastrointestinal Problems
  • Headache
  • Inflamed Lung Tissue
  • Low Oxygen Levels
  • Lung Failure and Fatality (In Severe Cases)
  • Nausea
  •  Night Sweats
  •  Shortness Of Breath
  • Tightness In Chest
  •  Weight Loss

How to Reduce Your Risks and Protect Yourself from Potentially Harmful Cannabis Vape Products

So now that you know what risks are associated with vaping cannabis, you are likely asking yourself, how can I best protect myself as a patient and consumer? Let’s explore.

Always Check Testing and Only Purchase from Reputable, Legal Sources

One of the best things you can do with any cannabis product to ensure its purity and safety is to always ask for testing results. States, at minimum, require cannabinoid and contaminant testing on all cannabis products sold in legal markets. Purchasing vape products from a legally licensed source that can provide third-party testing verifying the purity of the product being sold is the best route for obtaining cannabis vape products.

Be Picky and Mindful of Low-Priced Vape Products

Additionally, it is always advised to be picky about your cannabis vape products. If the price is too good to be true, in most cases, it is. However, not all cheap cannabis vape products are tainted, and price isn’t always an indication of quality.

Choose Your Vaping Method Wisely                                                                                                  

When choosing to vape cannabis, some people prefer to eliminate the risk of any potentially dangerous additives and opt to instead utilize a device that allows them to vape dried cannabis herb. In this form of vaping cannabis, dry cannabis flower is heated to the point just before combustion resulting in a vapor that can then be inhaled. This type of cannabis vaping eliminates the risks associated with inhaling ingredients such as PG and VG entirely.

Final Takeaways

It is evident that vaping cannabis comes with some potential risks, some of which could be severe, though rare. These risks, however, can be mitigated by taking appropriate measures to protect yourself from tainted products. If you want to avoid the risks entirely, you are in luck, as cannabis provides many alternative consumption methods aside from vaping cannabis. 

No Information on MarijuanaDoctors.Com should be used to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease or condition. You can view our Full Disclaimer here.

Doctors Near You

See a doctor online and get approved in less than 30 minutes. In most states, you can get a medical card within 24 hours.

Dispensaries Near You

At Marijuana Doctors, we make it easy for dispensaries to service medical marijuana patients in the area.
plus sign

Are You A Doctor?

get listed here

Sign Up For Our Newsletter

Sign up for MarijuanaDoctors.com Free Monthly Newsletter! You Receive:

  • Exclusive Stories, News, Medical Reports & Articles, Fraud Alerts
  • Discounts, Coupons & Free Giveaways
  • Trusted Information