Where There Is Vapor There Is Not Always Fire

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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18 Responses

  1. fillyjonk says:

    I haven’t paid a GREAT deal of attention, but my thought, as a scientist, is this: it’s gonna come down to grey-market or black-market cartridges. Like, they’re adulterated. Or that the THC in them is sufficiently concentrated to do something bad to the lungs.

    Or, as an outside: that the carrier oils (or some carrier oils) do a lot more harm than originally thought (remember the whole thing with the fake-popcorn oil and illnesses in some microwave-popcorn packaging plants).

    I don’t know what the answer is. I will say, as someone highly sensitive to tobacco smoke (asthma), I welcome that I’m around it less and less these days.

    And yes, I admit it, I have judgily rolled my eyes and thought “I get it, you vape” when some dudebro out on the street blows out a giant dragon cloud. But I am too polite to SAY anything, even when my campus hadn’t yet asked people not to do it in the classroom. And I would like the rules for vaping to be similar to those for cigarettes – in other words, if people can smell you doing it or be bothered by whatever you’re outgassing, don’t do it around them, please.Report

    • Trumwill in reply to fillyjonk says:

      They actually looked at popcorn lung early on. I gave a section to it here. Long and short of it is that there is some diacetyl in some flavors and there is a theoretical threat, but not a likely one with real-world use. Doesn’t mean that there isn’t some other chemical that’s going to cause some other problem. When this first surfaced I thought it was going to be regular vapes but with people that had some sort of severe allergy. But the fact that it kept happening in clusters and kept happening to young men started raising flags pretty quickly.

      Regarding courtesy, Halo (a products company that I used to get devices from) had a really productive newsletter n vaping etiquette basically suggesting that people not be in others’ faces with the vapor. Things might be going smoother with more vaping courtesy (though there is always going to be some give and take).

      One of the funny things about Juul is that among its selling points is that it is relatively invisible and odorless. I never used them so I don’t really know, but school administrators have actually complained about it (“How do we know if they’re doing it?”) and it’s been argued as proof of Juul’s nefarious nature.

      (It’s funny how often I end up defending Juul. I don’t actually care for them and I think things might be better off without them. But they are what they are, and they aren’t what they aren’t.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Trumwill says:

        Once, while on a layover in Chicago in the deepest darkest depths of winter, I was riding the shuttle from someplace to someplace else and it was cold enough for everybody’s breath to be visible.

        There was a guy on the shuttle who was sneaking tokes on a vape pen every half-minute or so and his breath clouds were bigger and more persistent than everybody else’s… but as I compared his exhalations to my own, I couldn’t help but notice that we’re all walking around in each other’s clouds.Report

    • dragonfrog in reply to fillyjonk says:

      It does seem to be specific to products that use vitamin E oil – which is a perfectly healthy nutritional supplement when ingested (i.e. at worst it’s useless but harmless), but a terrible thing to inhale.

      I can’t imagine the THC itself would be the culprit – we’ve been inhaling THC for a longish time now.

      Just generally the idea of buying vape liquid produced by illegal operations not bound by any list of allowed ingredients just seems so bad. Especially given that the older style marijuana vaporizers have been around for ages, and they just heat regular marijuana hot enough to cause the desirable cannabinoids to sublimate but not hot enough to burn the plant matter, so it’s basically the known quantity of marijuana, minus all the tar and soot.Report

      • fillyjonk in reply to dragonfrog says:

        Yes, but isn’t it more concentrated in the vape cartridges than in your garden-variety blunt? Or am I totally wrong, being the square that I am?

        It does seem like….black-market products without quality control or requirements to conform to some kind of standards would be a pretty bad idea.

        (Thought: if some do-gooders get their way and added sugars get banned, brace for people dying from black-market candy….)Report

        • Jaybird in reply to fillyjonk says:

          I imagine more will die from saying something like “no, but would you like carob?”Report

        • dragonfrog in reply to fillyjonk says:

          It’s hard to tell but it probably is possible to get vape juice that puts much more THC into a lungful of vapour than just smoking even high potency hash oil would do.

          Folks claim to sell liquid that has 1000 mg THC / mL. That seems very dubious to me as there wouldn’t be much room for carrier liquid at that point, but I’m not a physical chemist nor do I play one on television.

          Cannabis concentrates up to about 90% THC by weight exist, and have names like ‘wax’ or ‘shatter’ because that accurately describes their consistency – presumably a relatively thin liquid would have to have less THC than that.Report

  2. Frank Benlin says:

    Methinks thou doth protest too much.Report

  3. Oscar Gordon says:

    I often wonder what the overlap is between people who want to decriminalize marijuana and people who just hate nicotine.

    I mean, I wonder if it’s about the drug, or the commercialization of the drug?Report

    • I wonder about the overlap, too, but from a different angle. How many pro-legalizers are wont to declaim against Big Tobacco but would support a system in which there is Big Marijuana?

      To be sure, many, many–maybe a majority of–pro-legalizers claim to want to promote self-cultivation and smaller firms. But widespread legalization, in order to take place, will probably require some larger corporations and not a little rent-seeking and regulatory capture. Also: it’s likely to see Big Marijuana conduct studies downplaying, using not entirely scrupulous methods, the averse health effects of marijuana.Report

    • Dennis Sanders in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      I think this is a cultural issue. There is a culture that like marijuana, sees it as harmless and want to make it legal everywhere. That same culture looks at smoking nicotine as evil and there nothing good about it. Any kind of way to produce less harm is basically complicit in evil.Report

  4. Mark says:

    Lung cancer deaths did not start within a few years of widespread cigarette use. The curve went up after decades. Illnesses caused by exposure to toxins often take a bit of time to show up. Public health authorities should look for the occurrence of issues when something novel comes along. Now, I agree that we do trend to shout when we ought to speak calmly in many situations in public health and lots of other things. To me vaping is new enough that concern about a few cases is appropriate.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to Mark says:

      Lung cancer deaths didn’t start immediately, but lung damage is pretty immediate. We know where to look (and we should definitely be looking there, and are).

      This is a little bit different in that it did come out of nowhere. Not the product of a long grind, but an immediate reaction (and among otherwise less at-risk users and only in some places). So they should be looking at rather specific triggers rather than vaping in general, in this case.Report

      • DensityDuck in reply to Will Truman says:

        It’s also the case that there is a clear and definite correlation between “used illegal third-party products” and “experienced lung damage”, which was not the case for cigarettes. It’s not as though the vapers experiencing lung damage or death are spread randomly across all users, which you would expect if there were a general hazard from the activity.Report

  5. Sheila Tone says:

    In California, they sell THC vaping products in the marijuana stores. I have shopped in such stores, and never seen flavored THC oil. The point of vaping THC is the same as regular vaping — one wants the pleasant effects without the unpleasant side effects of yucky smoke.
    As for flavors luring youngsters to vape — if they love bubble gum or grape soda so much, you’d think they’d actually consume those products rather than bothering with an expensive device just to inhale their scent.Report