What is a vape pen?
A vape pen is a power source that heats up a vape tank or cartridge to produce vapor. They’re rechargeable battery-powered devices that are pocket-sized and cylindrical – hence, the name “pen.” Vape pens first hit the e-cigarette scene around 2010 from a company called Janty, then shortly after popularized by Joyetech. This device revolutionized the vaporizer market by offering larger battery capacity and longer running times, as well as providing the user the ability to swap atomizers or cartridges. Prior to vape pens, e-cigarettes were small self-contained units the shape and size of a cigarette.
Different types of vape pens
Now, there are many different types of vape pens and other uses besides nicotine vape juice, most notably with cannabis-derived products like THC and CBD vape oil.
Vape pens come in various battery capacities and features. Some vape pens are button activated, and some are draw-activated (meaning, when you inhale on the cart or tank, the device will sense a change in pressure and activate). Also, some vape pens have adjustable power output, which is the most sought-after function since it allows a tailored experience for the use. The power sent to the atomizer can increase the intensity of a hit, but if there’s too much power, the atomizer can give off a burnt taste. Burning is not what a vape should do!
Are vape pens bad for you?
In a strict sense of the definition, a vape pen is only a power source like any vape mod. In reality, when people refer to vape pens, the assumption is a whole kit aka a complete vape starter kit: a vape pen and a cartridge loaded up with a vape juice or cannabis-derived oil. Ascribing a level of safety with a vape pen requires knowing what’s in the cartridge on the pen, what strength is being used, who made it, how often it’s being used, and who’s using it.
Even without knowing those particulars, there are a couple points that are known: if you recreationally inhale substances other than air, you pose a risk to your respiratory system at the very least. The risks involved in using vape pens depends largely on if you’re using them as an alternative to smoking. The Royal College of Physicians report, which was published by Public Health Egland (PHE), has made it clear: vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking. Not 100% safe on its own, but safer than the dangers of smoking.
If you use vape pens for vaping cannabis-derived products, the same psychological and physiological implications from consuming a mind-altering substance remain, but without the multitude of health hazards from inhaling combusted plant matter. Similarly, in the case of using a vape pen to vaporize nicotine vape juice, the nicotine is still nicotine and it poses strong habit-forming possibilities. Still, just as the case with cannabis-derived products, the elimination of inhaling combusted particulate matter eliminates a host of concerns inherent to smoking anything.
How to use a vape pen
Using a vape pen is as simple as holding it and pushing the button while drawing on your cart or tank. Still, there are a few tips to make the experience free from hiccups.
- Charge the pen fully before use or putting a cart or tank on it. There is a small lithium-ion battery in the vape pen, and capacity can diminish while not in use for extended periods (like sitting on a shelf waiting to be purchased.) Frequent new users may think a new battery was a dud when it only needed to be charged first.
- If the device has a button, to turn it on requires a five-click quick press of the button. These five clicks need to happen in rapid succession. This is the same way to turn off the device. If the device is draw activated, it goes into sleep mode when not in use, thus there is no physical on/off switch.
- If the device has adjustable power, turn it all the way down before you begin. Take a vape. Slowly adjust up in power and take another vape. Once it feels and tastes to your liking, you’ve found your sweet spot. Most often, the adjustable power will be a rotary dial on the bottom of the pen. The common adjustments are in volts, going from 3.3 volts to 4.8 volts. Very few cannabis oil carts should go above 3.7-3.9 volts or it will produce a burnt hit. The recommended range for oil carts is 3.3-3.9 volts.
- When you take a drag on your tank or cart, the pen will stop power to the atomizer once the automatic shutoff limit has been reached. Check your pen’s user manual to see how long its limit is. Typically, the limit won’t exceed 8 seconds for one hit. If you want to take a longer draw, release the button for a split-second midway through your hit, then begin again immediately.
Charging a vape pen
Warning: do not use a cell phone wall plug to charge your pen since its max charge voltage will likely exceed the safety limits of your device. Charging a vape pen this way poses a fire hazard at worst, or it could fry your battery.
Vape pens are charged through a USB cord and are meant to be charged like other small electronic devices, like on a computer or laptop, or even in your car.
There are two types of charge cords for vape pens that depend on the one you have.
- The standard micro USB cord to be plugged into the side of the pen, or in the bottom of the device (sometimes hidden under a chrome cap).
- A proprietary connection that threads directly onto the top of the pen (called a 510 connection).
If you need a vape pen charger replacement, and you have a vape pen with a standard connection, any other standard USB cord will work. If you have a proprietary connection that threads onto the 510, you can find replacements on eBay (search for “eGo charger”). A replacement charger for a vape pen should only cost a couple dollars.