Cartridge Hardware—Breaking Down The Most Popular Product
Modern cannabis markets are quickly becoming dominated by concentrates and extracts. These extremely potent forms of cannabis offer consumers cannabinoid percentages unreachable with conventional flower. However, the cumbersome paraphernalia required to consume dabs severely limits when and where consumers can actually use them. While a significant portion of cannabis enthusiasts don’t mind these limitations, market research suggests that the vast majority of concentrate users favor the convenience afforded by a disposable vape cartridge.
That being said, sales of cannabis vape products took a dip immediately following the 2019 vape crisis. While sales have rebounded somewhat in 2020 and 2021, it’s critical the vape industry continues to highlight its commitment to ensuring consumer safety.
What Are Cannabis Vapes
A cannabis vape device can come in many different shapes and can be compatible with a
variety of different forms of cannabis. Regardless of model or design, all cannabis vaporizers have the same essential core function—gently heating cannabinoids to a high enough temperature that they convert into vapor without getting so hot that they combust.
- Dry-herb vaporizers accomplish this with natural cannabis flower. They can come in portable hand-held sizes or larger desktop versions that often collect vapor in plastic bags.
- Dab Pens are pocket-sized devices designed to make dabbing easier by removing the blowtorch/rig element. Concentrates like wax or shatter are placed into a heating chamber/oven powered by a battery.
- Vape Pens, sometimes called cartridge pens or cart pens, have a very similar anatomy to a dab pen. They consist of a 510 thread battery, which attaches to a disposable cartridge that contains a heating coil and is pre-filled with liquid cannabis oil. These are far and away the best-selling cannabis vape products currently on the market.
Why Cartridge Pens Are So Popular
Disposable vape cartridges offer unparalleled convenience for cannabis users. The cartridges are universally compatible with standard 510 thread batteries and come pre-filled with cannabis extracts. This means consumers won’t have to fumble with messy dabs in order to use them.
For cannabis users who want to imbibe while out and about, no other vaporization option comes close to a THC vape cart in terms of accessibility. Unlike dab pens, which require proper maintenance and cleaning after each use, consumers can quickly and discreetly take a hit from a cartridge pen and immediately place it back in their pocket or bag.
When the cartridge runs out of cannabis oil, users can simply discard it after use. They require no maintenance, are extremely simple to use, and the only initial cost aside from the cartridge itself is a relatively inexpensive vape battery.
Anatomy Of A Vape Cartridge
Three vape parts comprise the whole of a vape cartridge.
- Mouthpiece: Sometimes referred to as a “drip tip,” the mouthpiece is the part of the cartridge where users will inhale from. Typically, these are made from plastic, glass, or silicone.
- Tank: This is the area of the cartridge that contains the cannabis oil. Most often, manufacturers will design tanks out of translucent material like glass in order to better showcase the extract.
- Atomizer: This is the heating element that will vaporize the extract. Some are made with cotton wicks, but the best vape cartridges employ ceramic coils for a safer and pleasant experience.
Is Vaping Safe?
In the wake of the 2019 vape crisis, many cannabis consumers have been asking, is vaping bad for your lungs?
Unfortunately, there is little data examining the long-term effects of vaping on respiratory systems. The acute vaping illnesses, like the highly-publicized cases of EVALI in 2019, have been linked to the filler ingredient vitamin e acetate, which cannabis extractors had previously used as a filler agent designed to increase viscosity, and not to vaping itself.
When discussing the risks of vaping, it’s important to keep them in context. Vaping serves as an alternative to conventional smoking. Studies strongly suggest that non-combustion vaporization results in significantly less exposure to toxic particulates compared to smoking.
While due to the particularly toxic nature of cigarettes, this is most true when comparing nicotine vapes to traditional tobacco. However, research suggests the same principles hold true with cannabis as well.
Steps Manufacturers Can Take Mitigate Vaping Health Risks
While current research may indicate that vaping is a relatively safer way to inhale cannabinoids compared to smoking, there are still steps that extractors and cartridge manufacturers can take to reduce vaping dangers further.
The first and most obvious is that extractors should avoid using filler ingredients associated with respiratory illnesses. Vitamin e acetate has been linked to EVALI and should never be included in a cannabis oil formulation. In the same vein, extractors should stay far away from the flavoring agent diacetyl. While vape-related cases of popcorn lung are rare, diacetyl exposure has been correlated to cases of bronchiolitis obliterans and best avoided.
In addition, heavy metal leaching presents a real danger to vape consumers. Stringent testing practices can catch unsafe levels of lead and other metals before the cartridges enter the marketplace, but the best way to avoid this issue is by ditching metal hardware and switching to ceramic. Not only are ceramic cartridges safer, but they provide more consistent and flavorful hits than their metal counterparts.
It’s up to us in the vape industry to restore and maintain the public’s confidence by continuing to prioritize the health of consumers.