Vaporizers (vapes) have recently become a very popular (or at least very visible) method for cannabis and tobacco use. In theory, the controllable temperature settings and other features of vaporizers allow for the release and delivery of the desired chemicals (like CBD in cannabis) without producing the dangerous substances associated with combustion and smoke.
However, the technology is relatively new and remains the subject of much debate. Many of the claims made by manufacturers and proponents are still being examined in a scientific setting. We’ll have a quick look at a relatively new study that put some consumer vapes to the test.
Not All Vapes Are Created Equal
An investigation published in January 2016 by the scientific journal Plos One  tested five different commercial vaporizers (five electronic and one gas-powered) to determine their efficiency in both releasing the pertinent chemicals (THC and CBD-types) and in smoke production (of which there should be none). The researchers vaporized a small amount (50mg) of ground cannabis in each vape and examined the resin remaining within the device for evidence of combustion and cannabinoid release.
The five vaporizers were found to vary widely in the percentage of chemicals released from the cannabis. Total CBD-type efficiency ranged from about 46% to 70%, while THC-type varied from 55% to roughly 83%. However, all of the devices effectively delivered the released chemicals as an inhalable vapor at a quality near or exceeding 90%. The most concerning finding was evidence of combustion in the gas-powered device. This product also produced near the lowest recovery/delivery scores. Accordingly, gas-powered vaporizers may be best avoided until more evidence is accrued.
Overall, this study shows that electronic vaporizers can be an effective method of extraction and delivery of CBD and other cannabinoids without the risk of smoke inhalation. As this is still a relatively new market, consumers may be best served by the development of a labeling system that clearly states such figures. Until then, potential vape users should perform some basic online research for statistics of this type.