The news: It seems just like yesterday that e-cigarettes were the edgy new thing. But for smoking aficionados, there is a hip new kid on the block: e-joints.
A Dutch company called E-Njoint B.V. has debuted the world's first electronic joint. The slender, portable device is shaped like a regular joint and has a chrome-plated tip with a picture of a cannabis leaf that lights up every time you take a puff. While the e-joint has only been rolled out in France and the Netherlands so far, the company is already manufacturing 10,000 devices a day.
"Holland is well known in the world for its tolerant and liberal attitude toward soft drugs [and] the introduction of this new product clearly makes a statement," E-Njoint B.V. CEO Menno Contant told Yahoo News. "As long as you don't bother or disturb other people and stay within the legal boundaries, all is well. Everyone should feel fine, because what we are doing is no crime."
Image Credit: E-Njoint B.V.
How does it work? The device itself isn't full of marijuana when you purchase it, nor does it contain nicotine, tar, THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) or toxins. Instead, users choose from "six biological flavors," such as cherry or watermelon, in the form of vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol, which can later be refilled with liquid cannabis or dry herbs.
Since the company is not marketing actual marijuana, it can circumvent regulation. But the use of the device is ultimately left to the consumer's discretion — and there is some risk involved with that.
Is this safe? Right now, there hasn't been enough research into the safety of e-cigarettes, let alone e-joints. While some studies indicate that e-cigarettes may be only slightly healthier than regular cigarettes, the scientific jury is still out.
The big factor seems to be the one area that can't be regulated: user behavior. For instance, e-cigarettes are designed to emit lower levels of cancer-causing formaldehyde. But according to two recent studies, e-cigarette users can negate this effect by "dripping," the practice of trickling drops of liquid nicotine directly on the heating elements. The intense heat changes the chemical composition of the ingredients and creates carcinogenic byproducts — the hotter the burn, the more toxins released.
There's no knowing how e-joints will take off and what kind of trendy techniques smoking enthusiasts will develop to get the best buzz. While marijuana smoke is not as carcinogenic as tobacco smoke, we have no research regarding the impact of e-joints. For now, it's up to the individual consumer to use the device responsibly.