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Why Cheap, Poorly-Made Vape Pens Must Be Avoided

From burnt hits to busted cartridges to blown-up faces, cheap, poorly-made vape pens are a scourge of the cannabis community.

Adam Drury

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Why Cheap, Poorly Made Vape Pens Must Be Avoided
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Weed vapes are awesome. It’s as simple as that. Their pureness, potency and flavor are matched by their convenience and discretion. No wonder vapes are quickly becoming one of the most popular cannabis products on the market. And most of the time, the attention is (rightly) paid to the cartridge and, most importantly, the concentrate inside. As a result, we tend to overlook what we’re screwing our cartridges into: the vape pen itself. Vape pens are everywhere. They’re cheap and easy to get and some even come with a cartridge purchase. We don’t often give them much thought. But we should. Having the right battery can make or break your vaping experience—literally. So here’s why you should consider investing in a quality device, and why cheap, poorly-made vape pens must be avoided.

Cheap, Poorly Made Vape Pens Will Ruin Your Experience

When vaping goes right, there’s little that can compare to its greatness. The perfect pull, the perfect high, anywhere and anytime. But unfortunately, there’s plenty that can go wrong. If you’re relying on a crappy device, the odds of something bad happening increase, while the odds of you getting the high you want drop substantially. The problem is, you could be using a cheap vape pen right now and just not know it. With the cheap stuff, things can seem okay at first. But it won’t be long before the inevitable happens. Best-case scenario, you torch a cartridge, or have to replace your pen. Worst case? You die—or blow your face off. No joke.

What Is a Vape Pen, Anyway?

Keep in mind, we’re talking about subpar vape pens, not the cartridge itself. Although a bad pen will highlight the weaknesses of an unsatisfactory cartridge. Likewise, a bad pen will prevent you from getting the most out of top-shelf carts. So what are these things, anyway, and how can they vary so significantly in terms of quality?

The heart of any vape pen is its lithium-ion battery. These batteries are inexpensive to produce, ubiquitous and rechargeable. The voltage in these batteries goes through a circuit that usually attenuates it to a suitable level. For most THC carts, that’s anywhere from 2.7 to 3.7 volts, on average. Some vape pens, even cheap ones, come with different voltage settings, allowing you to let more or less current out of the battery. The current gets passed to your cartridge at its point of contact with the pen. Finally, the voltage ends up at the heating element, where it escapes as energy, atomizing your concentrate into delicious plumes.

It’s a simple setup. But it’s one where the quality of the components makes all the difference. Shoddy batteries, low-quality circuits and poor assembly can turn your vape pen into a micro-explosive device. Or it can completely waste your cart.

Four Big Reasons Why Cheap Vape Pens Must Be Avoided

Let’s drill into the details. Here’s why cheap, poorly-made vape pens must be avoided. Seriously, whatever it costs to get a good one—do it. You won’t regret it.

1. Cheap Vape Pens Can Overheat or Underheat

Like vape pens, weed cartridges vary in quality quite a bit. All carts pose some incompletely understood health risks. Your vape pen is heating stuff up so you can inhale it. When that stuff is pure cannabis oil without solvents, pesticides, or other toxic chemicals, that’s a good thing. But think about what that oil is sitting in. A glass and metal container, filled with metal elements like heating coils and bushings. Even carts with ceramic ovens can’t eliminate all metal exposure. Breathing in vaporized metallic oxides—that’s not good. And using a cheap, poorly-made vape pen increases your chances of doing just that.

One of the most common problems with cheap, badly-made vapes is their tendency to heat up too much or not enough. Overheating poses problems for your health, and your cartridge. Get things too hot, and you can overload the atomizer in the cart, shorting it out or giving you a harsh, totally burnt hit. And overheating can also heat metallic elements beyond their tolerance thresholds, releasing toxic chemicals. In short, too much heat can increase your exposure to carcinogens. And cannabis is supposed to help treat cancer, not cause it!

Then, there are batteries that don’t heat up enough. This creates problems for the concentrate. You may not vaporize cannabinoids and terpenes at their required levels, depriving you of their sumptuous flavors and pleasurable effects. And you may not be heating the concentrate up enough to burn off waxes or additives, which can build up in your lungs. Furthermore, pulling repeatedly on a cart that isn’t getting hot enough—because you’re looking for that big hit—will introduce a bunch of air bubbles, impeding the oil’s ability to properly flow.

2. Shoddy Batteries Can Lead to Serious and Fatal Device Failure

Phones explode. Cars explode. And vape pens explode, too. Between 2009 and 2014, before the meteoric rise of vaping’s popularity, there were more than two dozen cases of e-cigs exploding. And you can find countless stories online today about pens blowing up, catching fire, sparking, shorting out and more.

Cheap lithium-ion batteries are prone to catching fire. And they also suck at standing up to even moderately inclement weather. Cold below 50, temps above 90—these can seriously mess with a Li-ion battery’s ability to work correctly. The battery can short circuit, overheat, catch fire or explode. Real cool.

Even worse, cheap vape pens have cheap batteries that many people try to use well beyond their expiration date. Too many charges, and the battery starts to get covered in stuff called dendrites. Dendrites are conductive—and about as flammable as gasoline. So once dendrites cover the battery and create a short between the two electrodes… boom. That’s exactly what happened when a vape pen exploded earlier this year, killing its user. Others were lucky to get away with severe burns,  fractured face bones and missing teeth.

3. Cheap Vape Pens Might Tempt You To Modify Them

When your pen is malfunctioning, the last thing you might want to do is buy another one. So you hop online looking for a quick fix and find a whole community of people modding their vape pens, or making DIY repairs. Mods can be great, but they can also make your vape pen less safe. Poorly-made and poorly-repaired vape pens can also damage your cart, making it prone to leakage, air gaps, and other problems.

4. You’ll Spend More on Cheap Vape Pens Than A Good One

Another major problem with poorly-made vape pens is their longevity. Most are good for maybe a month’s worth of charging cycles before they no longer hold a charge well enough to properly heat your cart. And the more you charge it, the worse it will get. So off you go again, down to the smoke shop to buy a new $20 rig, or online for something even cheaper. You’re not into cartridges because they’re the cheapest way to buy weed. So why plug your carts into the cheapest possible device?

Spring for a high-quality, well-made vape pen. Make sure the battery has some kind of intelligent charge management that will avoid over/under heating, shorts and other risks. You’ll pay more initially, sure. But in addition to a little more peace of mind, you’ll enjoy a better, more consistent vaping experience. You’ll get the most out your oils, and maybe even save your good looks, or even your life. And you won’t have to drop a dub on a new device every month.

Hopefully by now you’re in the market for a better vape pen. The problem is, they can be tough to find. The market is absolutely flooded with imposters and counterfeit pens. And there isn’t any regulatory agency keeping an eye on the devices. The budget-starved Consumer Products Safety Commission is passing the buck to the FDA, who says vape pens are a consumer electronic, not a food or drug. So the onus is on you to do your research and buy a genuine, high-quality and well-made vape pen. Treat yourself.

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