Vaping has enjoyed a rise in popularity in the UK in recent years. There are now an estimated 4.3 million British adults who vape, with many taking up the habit as a means to quit smoking.
New data from Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), suggests 8.3% of adults in England, Wales and Scotland vape in 2022, up from 1.7% a decade ago. ASH says a “vaping revolution” has taken place over the past decade.
Vaporisation has also emerged as a way to consume cannabinoids like CBD. Is it safe to vape CBD? What should you look for in a vape liquid? Who is this delivery method suitable for, and does inhaled CBD get to work as fast as brands claim?
We asked Dr Andy Yates, pharmacy associate to the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry and the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis, to answer these questions and more.
One of the biggest claims made by cannabinoid vape brands is the rapid delivery of CBD to the bloodstream. Some say it’s the fastest way for the body to absorb CBD with noticeable effects. How much truth is there to this and what happens from the first inhale?
According to a 2020 study published in the journal Pharmaceuticals, ‘vaporisation can overcome some of the problems of CBD delivery.’
Dr Yates says absorption from inhalation can happen in minutes.
“Detection of CBD in the blood occurs very rapidly following inhalation of CBD and other cannabinoids with maximum amounts being detected within 10 minutes.
“It occurs rapidly because the lung tissue is highly permeable and contains lots of blood vessels to aid oxygenation of the blood and this is exploited when cannabinoids are inhaled.”
Does this make vaping CBD more effective than taking oil drops or soft gels? Dr Yates says inhaling CBD allows for avoiding some of the bodily processes, which other products, such as tinctures and capsules, must go through once swallowed.
“Inhaling CBD avoids what we call first pass metabolism, which is what happens when CBD is orally ingested and the blood from the gut goes immediately to the liver where enzymes can break down the CBD, resulting in lower blood concentrations. This doesn’t happen when it is inhaled.”
Certificates of Analysis – what are they and why are they important?
When it comes to choosing a CBD vape to try, Dr Yates advises getting familiar with Certificates of Analysis (CoAs) to know the accurate makeup of the product before you buy. He says CoAs are important when choosing any CBD product, for 3 key reasons.
“Firstly, it demonstrates that the company selling the CBD is analysing carefully the product which they are selling.
“Secondly, it allows the user to check for themselves exactly what’s in their product.
“Thirdly, it provides transparency of the product’s contents between different batches produced.”
For those who aren’t familiar, the Chief Scientific Officer at Artelo Biosciences says there are some basic things to look for when reading a CoA.
“I always look to see which laboratory has conducted the analysis, what the CBD content of the product is, what the THC content of the product is and what the limits of detection are.
“CBD and THC content are for obvious reasons and some people may be interested in other cannabinoids or terpenoids that are listed. It’s important that the laboratory has the right accreditations to do the testing, is independent from the supplier and can provide additional reassurance.
“Finally the limits of detection tells you at what level the analysis can detect a particular substance, so taking THC as an example, if a company is reporting ‘Zero THC’ then actually what they are reporting is that they can detect no THC above a certain amount. That amount is the limit of detection. This can be of particular importance for athletes and those that are subject to drug screening for controlled or banned substances.”
Making and selling CBD vapes
Paul Holmes is vape category manager at Naturecan, a British-owned CBD lifestyle brand operating in 28 markets around the world. The company, based in Stockport, offers five different vape flavours in various strengths of CBD, all manufactured in an ISO 7 certified facility.
Paul says this is one product category which is growing in popularity in 2022, and not just in the UK.
“Vapes are an emerging product for us and we are seeing a growing interest in them in many of the countries that we trade into.
“Customers are also constantly looking for new and exciting options and so for Naturecan, the development of targeted offerings to specific territories is the next step in this area. For example, localised flavour profiles that are tailored to the palette preferences in a specific locale is something that we are looking at and would certainly provide customers with an even more appealing choice of products.”
Unlike tinctures and edibles, CBD vape liquids or ‘juice’ are not considered under the Novel Foods Directive. Regardless, Paul says the world of vape products presents its own regulatory challenges for companies like Naturecan.
“There are lots of regulatory considerations to be made when moving into the vape market and so a keen understanding of local laws and regulations is also imperative before trading into any country.
“Trading into so many countries globally means that we must be very conscious of what is wanted by our customer base in specific regions and so responding to this is key for us.”
He adds that the fast uptake of inhaled cannabinoids in the body is one of the biggest reasons why consumers are starting to choose vaping as a delivery method over some of the other formats of administration.
“Bioavailability will certainly play a factor in this decision, along with a general preference for this specific route of administration. I think customers are becoming more and more aware of the increased bioavailability that you will benefit from when inhaling your CBD rather than ingesting and so that is certainly a big driving factor.”
“Flavour profiles are also a key factor in this and a well-balanced, tasty vape may be a much more pleasurable experience for some than a sublingual drop. This will be down to personal preference, so offering alternative product formats is vital in this sense.”
Despite the growing curiosity around CBD vapes Paul says tinctures remain the most common and widely used format for people to consume cannabinoids.
“We are very conscious that customers also want to be provided with alternatives and that is why we have such a wide range of alternatives to tinctures, including our vape range.”