The darker side of vaping

RandAid React logo(2)Have you heard the term ‘vaping’? Electronic cigarette and personal vaporisers are devices that give an alternative to smoking tobacco cigarettes. While once considered a healthier alternative to cigarettes, there is a darker side to vaping that society needs to be aware of.

The liquid placed in vaporisers and e-cigarettes is a mixture of propylene glycol – a clear, colourless, syrupy liquid that produces vapour when heated or shaken; vegetable glycerin, which is clear and odourless; a liquid produced from plant oils; food flavourants and often nicotine.

Sometimes dagga or synthetic dagga oils (also known as Spice or K2) are also added.

“The darker side of vaping is that you can put marijuana in an electronic cigarette and it will be vaporized,” says Karen Griessel, a social worker at Rand Aid’s Wedge Gardens substance abuse treatment centre.

“All that you will need is a vaporizer and a dry herb cartridge which will instantly change your vaporiser into an electric pipe. Another option is the use of oils, waxes and other tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentrates, such as hash oils, which come in an oil cartridge or glass globe attachment.

“Vaping concentrates produce less smell than burning herbs, so it’s more discreet than smoking a marijuana joint. One can also use THC e-liquids and cannabis tinctures, otherwise known as liquid extracts of a plant material. It is becoming a popular way to consume a wide range of dangerous new synthetic drugs, including synthetic marijuana, and the danger in this is that many teenagers who are experimenting may not even be aware that they are ingesting these synthetic cannabinoids.”

Karen says the sellers of synthetic herbs are aggressively marketing liquid forms of the same chemicals that are used in traditional synthetic herbs, but using new names to create confusion about the bad side effects, harsh withdrawals and addictiveness.

“It’s easy to understand why vaping is becoming a preferred way to consume synthetic drugs. It tastes good, smells nice and delivers a much stronger, more potent high. And above all, no one can tell you’re doing drugs.

“The bottom line is that vaping may be the most dangerous synthetic marijuana trend since the drug hit our shores.”

But even using the e-ciggie to quit smoking – or be a more socially acceptable smoker – could be dangerous.

At their simplest, all vapour devices use a lithium battery to heat a wire coil. A wick is used to draw the liquid to the coil. When the liquid is heated by the coil, it vaporises and can then be inhaled in a similar fashion to smoking.

“It’s highly addictive, probably as addictive as heroin and cocaine. Contradictorily, Top of Formpeople have begun to use them to kick their habit of smoking cigarettes but, unfortunately, the possibility of escalating nicotine addiction and encouraging people to start smoking again is high.”

And there is currently no scientific evidence demonstrating the safety of vaping.

“The health warnings are inadequate,” says Karen, adding, “results show that vaping for just five minutes caused an increase in oxidative stress, which is an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the body’s detox abilities, as well as peripheral airway flow resistance in the lungs.”

She explains that the USA’s Food and Drug Administration found noticeable levels of toxic chemicals, including an ingredient used in anti-freeze, in various cartridges and different brands of vape. The higher the temperature, the more toxins were released.

* Wedge Gardens can be reached at 011 430 0320. You can also ‘like’ Wedge Gardens on Facebook ( or follow them on Twitter (@WedgeGardens)