With the recent controversy surrounding what was thought to be seemingly harmless vape pens, there’s an alarming lack of research on another teenage phenomenon: dab pens. Although, there has been no reported deaths as a result of using these devices, there’s no assurance that there won’t be in the future.
Electronic smoking devices were first invented in 1927 by Joseph Robinson and made as an alternative to smoking cigarettes. It was then that Americans were just beginning to learn about the dangers of smoking. His intention was to prevent users from getting burned while using a device that could hold any type of medicinal substance that could be heated electrically.
While the product was advertised to help people quit smoking cigarettes, it didn’t become popular until the modern vape pen was invented in 2003, by Hon Lik. This pen has a battery which is located at the end of the pen and powers it. It also has a plastic cartridge with the solution and an atomizer which vaporizes the solution using heat with a conduction or convection system. The coils used could be dual rods, ceramic, or titanium. The rest of the pen is composed of a filter and mouthpiece. The most attractive feature of these pens is the fact that they are odorless and can be used discreetly.
Dab pens in particular hold a cannabis concentrate made of wax which is thinned out with wax liquidizer. But, other than this, there’s little information readily available about the just how safe wax pens are. To find information you’d have to conduct a thorough google search and consult multiple articles.
Many reviewed articles confirm that not much research has actually been conducted on how safe wax pens actually are. The most recent article addressing the contents of these pens was published by Rolling Stone in October 2017, written by Amanda Lewis. Her research revealed that virtually all pens are made from butane hash oil and made in the same way.
Photo courtesy of the Alcohol and Drug Foundation
They stuff unwanted marijuana into PVC pipe, filter it and put lighter fluid into the pipe so they can extract the THC. The end result is the oil, which is then soaked in ethanol, frozen or boiled to purify it. The dangerous part about this process is that it’s not professionally regulated and can come from random drug dealers or pot shops. There has been little to no research conducted on the health components of the chemicals in this “low-quality pot” as Lewis puts it.
Lewis says, “While cannabis companies have been working on removing harmful chemicals left over in their cannabis concentrations, there are still dangerous chemicals released from additives companies put in them. Chemicals like propylene glycol and polyethylene glycol break down into formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, at high temperatures. These chemicals can cause allergies and asthma to flare up according to a study in 2010.”
She also mentions that the actual marijuana can have pesticide killing chemicals that reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the air. While they don’t affect plants very much, when inhaled by humans in marijuana strands, they can cause cancer and kill brain cells.
Photo from technology news
It’s hard to make sure every single dab pen is “clean” and until they are legalized nationally, FDA regulation may be years away, putting users at risk each time they use their pen.
I revealed this information to some users I knew to see how they would react.
Nineteen-year-old Joni Mae De los Santos, who attends Montclair State University says, “I know dab pens are getting increasingly popular because the user can get high with more ease and convenience compared to smoking regularly. You don’t have to worry that much about the smell or smoke. However, I know a lot of people buy cheaper and off brand carts. This in particular makes me worried about its increasing popularity; the user (and I bet the seller) has no idea what other chemicals are inside the cart. It can contain a lot more carcinogens than certified cart companies. But even with certified cart companies, it still contains harmful chemicals that makes smoking as dangerous as cigarette smoking.” She has been using dab pens for just under a year and recently stopped after she did some research on how safe they really are.
There’s an inadequate amount of research that has been conducted to regulate how safe chemicals in dab pens are. We know that the chemicals can be harmful and flare up allergies. With the recent deaths due to vaping from similar devices, smokers should think of the dangers and not use dab pens anytime soon.