What are vape pens?
Vape pens are small gadgets, about the size of pen, that vaporize cannabis oil. Some models can vaporize flowers, but most use a disposable cartridge or refillable tank of cannabis oil. That’s the type we will be talking about for the purposes of this article.
Is it pure cannabis oil? No and we will talk about that more in the disadvantages of vape pens section.
Advantages of Vape Pens
- Ease of Use – Vape pens are easy to use and convenient. A single charge can last for weeks, depending on how often you use the pen, no lighters or matches are needed, just draw and enjoy.
- No smoke – Vape Pens are arguably a healthier alternative to smoking, as oils are heated to the point just before combustion, allowing the user to inhale pure vapor without the toxins found in smoke. I say arguably, for more see the disadvantages section.
- Discreet -- Vape pens are far more stealth and less odorous than combustible cannabis. Likewise, they are a great choice to take with you on the go for a quick toke. With the popularity of e-cigarettes for tobacco, another plus to a cannabis vape pen is it is pretty indistinguishable from the tobacco version.
- Economical -- Vape pens can also provide an economical way to get your medicine, as a single filled cartridge can last for 100s of hits.
With so many advantages, it’s no wonder vape pens are so popular. In fact, the Oxford Dictionary even chose “vape” as its 2014 word of the year!
Disadvantages of Vape Pens
Really, there is only one disadvantage we can think of when it comes to vape pens. We have absolutely no idea what the long term effects of inhaling oil are. Plus vape pan cartridges mix cannabis oil with other substances to reduce viscosity. Usually this substance is propylene glycol, something we also know little about the long term effects of.
Personally, while vape pens are convenient, most of the Senior Stoner staff prefer vaping flowers as opposed to vape pens.
That said, vape pens are extremely popular, so let's continue in case you think they are a good choice for you.
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Anatomy of a Vape Pen
While there are tons of vape pens on the market, the differences between them are usually subtle. They all have four (sometimes five) basic components in common:
- The Cartridge or Tank – Most vape pens these days take disposable pre-filled cartridges, although some models have refillable tanks. This is the part that holds the cannabis concentrate oil.
- The Heating Element – Each vape pen has a small heating element that converts the liquid cannabis oil into a vapor. Some models surround the heating element with a polyfill material that gets soaked in the oil, while others use a silica wick to deposit the oil onto the heating element.
- Sensors – Many portable vape pens turn on automatically when you inhale, while others use a button engage the heating element. The sensor determines when the button is being pushed or when a user is inhaling and activates the heating element accordingly.
- The Battery –- Most vape pens use rechargeable lithium ion batteries. Although some are meant to be disposable once they are empty.
- The Charger -- Most vape pens come with a charger that simply plugs into a USB port to recharge the battery. A single charge can last weeks or more, depending on how often you use your vape pen. Most models have a light that let’s you know it’s working but some do not. Still other vapes come prefilled are designed to be disposed or recycled once they are empty. You won’t get a charger with any of these small pre-filled vapes that closely resemble a cigarette in size.
What Kind of Oil to Use
Different manufacturers use different methods to produce cannabis oil. Some use a CO2 extraction process; others use butane or other solvents, which in theory should all be purged from the product before it gets to you.
Some oils are mixed with propylene glycol or other fillers in order to decrease viscosity. Some even have added flavors. Read the labels and the lab testing to insure you get the product you want.
The type to use becomes a matter of personal choice and what works best with the pen you have. A well-stocked dispensary will offer a staggering array of vape cartridges.
A knowledgeable bud tender can help you make a good selection when buying a new vape pen or steer you toward a refill cartridge that will work well with the brand of vape pen you already have.
Many oil manufacturers make several varieties, such as indica, or sativa, or blends. Some even single strain oils, so if you find a manufacturer you like, check out all their varieties.
How to Use a Vape Pen
- Charge it!
Some pens may come from the store fully charged, but most will need to be charged before using, so plug it in as soon as you get it out of the box.
- Load the cartridge.
Check the instructions that came with your pen, but this usually means nothing more than screwing the cartridge onto the battery and screwing the mouthpiece on the other end.
Some models requite you to push a button first, others need nothing more than you to put your lips on the mouthpiece and inhale. A slow steady gentle draw works best; we find that sucking too hard prevents you from getting a good hit. At the end of the inhale remove the vape pen from your lips and take in a tiny extra puff of air, then immediately exhale. There is no need to hold the hit in, everything you need is absorbed upon inhaling.
That’s all there is to it. Welcome to the wonderful world of vape pens!
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Comedian (and senior stoner) Whoopi Goldbern is such a fan of vape pens, she penned this essay for The Cannabist: My Vape Pen and I, A Love Story.