Making Sense of the CBD Vape Pen Scare

Should you puff puff, or pass?

CBD vape pens are everywhere; at your yoga studio, on the shelves of your favorite local coffee shop, in your co-worker’s purses. And now, they’re in the news. 

CBD vape pens have created quite a stir in the cannabis industry- but not all news is good news.

This past summer, 18-year-old Simah Herman posted a picture of herself on Instagram– lying in a hospital bed, holding a handmade sign saying, “I want to start a no vaping campaign.” 

“My best guess, since we’re still learning about what is really going on in the lungs is [it’s a] profound inflammatory reaction to the vape products or some component of the vape pen products,” Melamed told ABC News‘ Adrienne Bankert.

Her story, and reports of issues similar to hers, have grabbed the attention of media outlets and vape pens users alike. While there’s no clear evidence that it was the act of vaping alone that sent her to the hospital, these health scares should be enough to give anyone using vape pens just a little pause. 

Now, everyone seems to be asking themselves: “Are CBD vape pens safe?” 

When it comes to your health, no one wants to take unnecessary risks. To help clear the air about the safety of CBD vape pens, the team at Rosebud has put together some important things that you should know about the safety of CBD vape pens. 

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Why Do People Use CBD Vape Pens?

The benefits of CBD oil for helping to decrease inflammation and calm anxiety have been well-documented, and vaping CBD has become one of the most popular methods.

Basically, vape pens work by heating a liquid to produce an aerosol, which vape users then inhale into their lungs. Rather than burning cannabis, which occurs at temperatures above 400˚C, vape oil only needs to be heated at around 160˚C, for the cannabinoids and terpenes to be aerosolized.

Health experts mostly agree that CBD itself, even when vaped, is mostly safe. However, this method is only safe if you can get your hands on pure, unadulterated CBD.

The Regulation Problem with Vape Pens

According to an Associated Press investigation, some companies are taking advantage of the CBD craze and are opting to go the cheapest route possible; by using synthetic (and might we add: illegal) cannabis in their vapes and edibles. 

The study found that astonishingly, as many as one-in-three vape pens on the market today contain synthetic marijuana. 

This practice has sent dozens of vape pen users straight to the emergency room. Part of the reason that these companies have gotten away with this unethical practice is the fact that the cannabis industry has skyrocketed, and regulators haven’t caught up, while drug enforcement agents have seemingly have more important priorities.

“People have started to see the market grow and there are some fly-by-night companies trying to make a quick buck,” said Marielle Weintraub, president of the U.S. Hemp Authority.

People with Lung Issues Should Avoid Using Vape Pens

The FDA and CDC have not identified the cause or causes of the lung injuries in these cases, and the only commonality among all cases is that patients report the use of e-cigarette, or vaping, products.

“Anyone who has lung issues such as asthma or COPD should absolutely avoid vaping as it can exacerbate those issues.” Says Jon Mitchell, PA-C, certified physician assistant and functional medicine health consultant

“CBD vape pens are a trendy and discreet manner to consume cannabis. However, commonly used thinning agents in many products on the market are harmful when heated and inhaled.” 

– Project CBD

Be Aware of Thinning Agents Found in CBD Vape Oil

Cannabis oil, that contains active CBD extract, is too thick to be used in vape pens that have electric heater coils. Because of this, the concentrate must be treated to reduce the thick, sticky consistency.

This can be achieved through a few different methods. However, many companies try to take a dangerous shortcut by using cheaper chemicals. 

Two of the most commonly used chemical thinning agents are propylene glycol (PG) and polyethylene glycol (PEG). Both of these chemicals can potentially break down into carcinogenic (cancer-causing) compounds like formaldehyde and acetaldehyde. This is particularly true when they’re used at high temperatures, in vape pen cartridges.

A 2010 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that inhaling propylene glycol – even in low concentrations – can potentially induce asthma, allergic reactions, and other respiratory complications.

Many of these compounds are generally recognized as safe to ingest by the FDA, but up until recently, very little attention has been paid to what happens when they are heated and absorbed. Turns out that these thinning agents, like PG and PEG and flavoring agents are not safe for inhalation as heated compounds, and can even become increasingly more toxic through heat exposure. 

The important takeaway: Stay away from any products with PG, PEG, and flavoring agents that have not been thoroughly tested for safety.

Vaping CBD Can Be Safe and Effective 

The quality of hemp and CBD products is the most important aspect of safety and effectiveness in any type of delivery, especially vaping because of the direct contact to the throat and lungs. 

Look for a product that is made from the whole plant, which provides full-spectrum cannabinoids as opposed to CBD isolate, which doesn’t have as much benefit and can be difficult to trace the source and safety. 

Choose products made by CO2 extraction because that’s the cleanest processing method for vaping cartridges and does not produce added chemicals. The great part about today’s hemp industry is that there are many choices. 

Be a discerning shopper and choose products that come from a clean, full-spectrum source with CO2 extraction, and are tested for potency and toxins like heavy metals and pesticides.

“Pairing limited vaping followed by sublingual delivery is a great strategy for those who have concerns about lung health.” Says Sara DeFranceso, N.D., naturopathic doctor, licensed acupuncturist, and founder of Thriving Force.

How to Vape CBD Oil Safely: What Can You Do?

Ultimately, one of the most important things you can do to ensure your health and safety when vaping CBD is to invest in a high-quality vape pen, that shows the full ingredient list, and includes the third-party lab test results to support it. 

If the vape pen contains anything other than CBD extract, terpenes and cannabinoids, then it’s most likely unsuitable for inhalation. 

Don’t take the risk! Your vape pen should say something about vaping vape juice, e-liquid or e-juice on the label, and it should not contain any actual oil.

The CDC Recommends That You Do Not:

  • Use e-cigarette, or vaping, products that contain THC.
  • Buy any type of e-cigarette, or vaping, products, particularly those containing THC, off the street.
  • Modify or add any substances to e-cigarette, or vaping, products that are not intended by the manufacturer, including products purchased through retail establishments.

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What CBD Vape Pen Dosage Should I Take?

Unfortunately, there is no “one-size-fits-all” dosage for CBD. It greatly depends on a range of factors, including the symptoms being treated, body weight and tolerance. In addition, everyone’s metabolism and endocannabinoid system is slightly different, which can yield unique results for each person.

A typical CBD vape cartridge containing 100 mg of CBD delivers about 1-2 mg CBD with each puff. If you’re using a CBD vape pen, you’ll be taking in a bit more CBD per puff, depending on your device and the strength of your CBD vape juice.

The best way to find your dosage is to start low and then work your way up. 

Start with the minimal dosage, 1 to 2 mg of CBD and wait about six hours until your next dose. Gradually increase your dosage each time by 5 mg. Pay close attention to how you feel after each dose. It might not be noticeable right away, or even overnight. 

As soon as you experience positive effects, stick with that dosage until adjustments are necessary. 

Here is a helpful CBD dosage guide we put together to help navigate!

The Bottom Line

There is still so much more that we need to learn about all-things-cannabis in order to be aware of all the potential health concerns that may arise. However, if you’re among the ranks of concerned CBD users, and you want to make sure that you are making the best decisions for your health and wellness, you’re not alone. 

In the case of vape pens, there’s a great need for specific research on how people actually use these products in the real world in order to understand potential benefits or side effects of CBD.

Until we know more about CBD vape pens, the best thing that you can do to prevent any health issues is to know the exact contents of your CBD vape pen, know how and where it was manufactured, and make sure that you are buying your vape pen from a reliable and respected CBD company. 


People experiencing problems with a product labeled as “CBD” can reach a local poison control center by calling 1-800-222-1222.

E-cigarette, or vaping, products should never be used by youths, young adults, or women who are pregnant.

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