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The CULTA Blog

How Do I Know if My Vape Cartridge is Safe?

culta branded vape with its packaging

Cannabis vape cartridges are exploding in popularity. Unfortunately, so are counterfeit vape cartridges. Unlike a counterfeit purse or wallet, counterfeit vape cartridges can be detrimental to your health. They expose users to dangerous chemicals like heavy metals and other toxins that aren’t included on the labels and are sending people to the hospital in record numbers. 

In this blog, we’ll discuss the negative health concerns caused by fake vape carts and how to spot a counterfeit vape cart in the wild. 

Counterfeit vape cart safety concerns

In 2019, the health and safety concerns of counterfeit vape carts first came to light when otherwise young and healthy patients started showing up at ERs and urgent care centers complaining of symptoms ranging from chest pain and shortness of breath to weight loss and coughing. X-rays showed haziness of the lungs, and the only thing that tied the cases together was vape cartridges, which ultimately ended up being counterfeit and included contaminants like myclobutanil (a fungicide) and vitamin E Acetate.

In addition to these health concerns, counterfeit vape carts also pose a safety risk. Fake carts often come with unsafe batteries and heating coils, which can cause combustion or dangerous overheating of the vape. 

How to avoid fake cartridges 

When shopping for vape pens and cartridges, it’s always important to know what to look for. Here are the best ways to avoid fake carts. 

Purchase from a reputable vendor 

This might sound like a plug for CULTA, but we promise it’s not. The absolute best way to avoid fake carts is to purchase them from a vendor or brand you can trust. If you’re venturing into a new dispensary, only purchase from brands you’ve heard about before. Research the dispensary and the brands they carry before visiting the dispensary. Read reviews and educate yourself on the dispensary and vape cart manufacturer. 

At CULTA, we’re transparent about our growing, harvesting, and cultivation process because we have nothing to hide. If a brand doesn’t provide this information, you may want to think twice. 

Inspect the packaging 

The packaging of a vape cart can tell you a lot about its authenticity. When looking at a product’s packaging, always check the label for third-party test results, a QR code, or a serial number. Bonus points if the label includes all three. Additionally, if a product is significantly cheaper than other similar products, this could be a huge red flag. Everyone loves a good deal, but not if that “good deal” lands you in the hospital. 

Check the ingredients 

Although manufacturers of fake carts don’t always include an accurate ingredient list, it can be helpful to check the ingredients listed on the packaging. Most of the negative side effects associated with fake vape carts are caused by filler, and common filler ingredients include vitamin E acetate, polyethylene glycol, propylene glycol, and vegetable glycerin. Though these are technically approved by the FDA, these ingredients are not approved for inhalation. If the ingredient list includes any of these ingredients or, even worse, there is no ingredient list, discard the vape cart as it is likely a fake.

Perform the “bubble test”  

So, you purchased a vape, and it seems legitimate, but you’re wondering if there’s a way to “test” it. Enter the bubble test. The bubble test is simple: just flip your pen or vape upside down, and if the air bubble in the cart moves to the top too quickly, it might be cut with one of the ingredients listed above. One important thing to note is that this test really only works if you’re comparing a fake cart to a real cart since there’s no way to really know what’s “too fast” without a threshold. As you can see, this test isn’t perfect and has its flaws, which is why our best advice for avoiding fake carts is to only purchase from a reputable, licensed dispensary. 

Verify regulatory compliance 

In states where cannabis is legal, there are strict requirements for rigorous testing, and certain information must be included on the product packaging. For example, Maryland requires manufacturers to include the following information on their packaging

  • The licensee that grew or produced the product 
  • A finished-product lot number and expiration date
  • Allergen warnings  or nutrition labeling required by law 
  • A list of any non-cannabis ingredients 
  • The telephone number of the licensee to call and report an adverse event
  • The Maryland Poison Control Center emergency telephone number 
  • Itemization, including weight, of all cannabinoid and terpene content 

This is in addition to the Universal Symbol that’s required on all cannabis products. If the packaging is missing any of the above information, it might be counterfeit. Note: the above list is accurate as of January 2024, but regulations surrounding cannabis are always changing. Please visit the MCA website for the latest information. 

Signs of a contaminated vape 

Counterfeiters are extremely savvy, making it incredibly difficult to determine whether a cart is legitimate or not. If you did not purchase your vape cart from a licensed dispensary and are concerned about the safety of your cart, here are some symptoms to look out for: 

  • Coughing 
  • Shortness of breath
  • Airway irritation
  • Vomiting and nausea 
  • Fatigue and weakness 
  • Chest pain 

If you experience any of these symptoms after using your vape cart, discard the vape cart and seek immediate medical attention. 

CULTA: Your trusted vape cart supplier 

As mentioned, the only way to be 100% confident that your vape cart is safe and effective is to purchase your cannabis products from a reputable and licensed dispensary. At CULTA, we’re proud to be one of those dispensaries. We were one of the first medical dispensaries allowed to operate in the state and have always taken our farming and cultivation processes seriously, so much so that we’re one of the few Clean Green Certified companies in the state.  

Visit our flagship Baltimore dispensary, our CULTA-owned dispensaries in Frederick and Ellicott City, or any of our partner dispensaries for high-quality vape carts you can trust.