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Different Cannabis Ignition Methods

July 12, 2021 in General Education

You take a lot of care in choosing the best cannabis strain. But, has it ever occurred to you that choosing the healthiest method to ignite your medicine is just as important? In this article I will discuss the pros and cons of using a butane lighter versus a hemp wick. I will explain how Bee Line Hemp Wick evolved into the company it is today. I will also discuss another alternative, a vaporizer-like heating element invented by PRRL Labs and present other old and new ignition methods.

Hemp Wicks vs BIC Lighters

Chemists and other experts were asked to weigh in on this subject. Everyone agreed that there just isn’t much data on which one is the healthier source for igniting your cannabis pipe or joint.

Butane Lighters

They are certainly cheap and convenient to use, but are they bad for your lung health?

  • Butane is relatively non-toxic according to Josh Wurzer, President and Co-founder of SC Labs, a highly respected cannabis lab in California.
  • Organic chemist Steve Palaia believes that butane is the healthier source. He points out that when you burn hemp wicks, you end up inhaling lignocellulose, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and creosote which may result in health problems over time.

Does a butane lighter affect the flavor of your cannabis strain? According to one cannabis celebrity, he makes a point of holding the lighter over the bowl as short a time as possible to avoid inhaling butane. He hasn’t noticed that it affects the flavor. He prefers to use wooden matches to ignite large joints. They burn at a lower temperature than butane which aids in a more even burn. Long, wooden sulfurless matches are also a healthy alternative.

Bee Line Hemp Wick

The catalyst behind the invention of the Bee Line Hemp Wick was, first and foremost, in response to the health concerns of using butane. Co-founder Miranda Campbell was seriously hurt in a car accident which left her in a coma. When she regained consciousness, she used cannabis to wean herself off of heavy painkillers. She was doing “magnifying glass shots” but she decided she needed a healthier way to ignite her medicine. She read that butane may actually interfere with bone healing. Her other concerns to finding an alternative to butane lighters was to improve the flavor and to minimize the environmental impact of lighters which end up in landfills. Along with fellow co-founder, Kea Eubank, the two women did extensive research on the harmful effects that butane can have on human lung health. They concluded that it should be avoided.

They began experimenting with different natural ingredients until they were satisfied with the result which was hemp string covered in beeswax. They discovered that paraffin wax is no better than butane. They chose beeswax because it is food-safe and they support beekeeping and all it entails. In 2005, the company was founded in Maui as Bee Line Hawaii  and they were responsible for reintroducing the world to wicks. It took three years for them to come up with the term “hemp wick,” now considered a cannabis industry standard. In 2008, the company became Bee Line Hemp Wick. Their hemp is grown in Eastern Europe and they ship the finished product to 34 countries worldwide.

While over 70 different companies currently use the term “hemp wick,” the Bee Line Hemp Wick founders want to make it clear that “all waxes and hemps are not created equal.” Some companies claim that their product is vegan and some use non-organic hemp which may be even worse than using GMO cotton wicks and butane.

The thickness of the wick is also crucial. They realized that a thin wick is healthier than a thick one. With a wick that is too thick, the wax is not entirely burned by the flame. The end result is unburned material that becomes soot or smoke.

NEO, The Lighter Alternative 

An alternative to using a butane lighter is a product called NEO, invented by PRRL Labs. It uses heated air to turn your pipe into an atomizer. It consists of a non-toxic superalloy heating element, a clear quartz chimney, and the medical-grade ceramic zirconia atomizer housing. The only thing that touches the cannabis in your bowl is hot air. This means that you inhale only the good stuff, cannabinoids and terpenes, and none of the undesirable compounds. No ash. No smoke. No burning. An added bonus is that the design makes it very easy to keep your pipe clean.

About PRRL Labs

The CEO and founder of PRRL Labs is Mark Lewis who has an engineering degree from California Institute of Technology. In his mind, combustion in any form is not healthy. Both butane lighters and hemp wicks combust cannabis which produces harmful ash particles and toxic compounds.

Here is his take on butane lighters and hemp wicks from a health standpoint:

  • Butane is quite clean burning
  • Burning waxes is more of a health concern than unburned butane. Because wax molecules are larger than butane molecules, there will be more unburned hydrocarbons from wax fumes than from butane.

Which Method Is Better For Flavor?

  • Butane burns hotter than the hemp wick
  • The lower temperatures of hemp wicks may preserve the cannabinoids and terpenes and maximize the flavor

Old and New School Ignition Methods

  • Magnifying glass hits or a solar hit; uses a magnifying glass and the sun’s rays on a sunny day
  • Greevo Sticks; a borosilicate smoking utensil with a bulb end. You heat it until it is red, allow it to cool for a few seconds and then touch it to the flower. You can vape or combust the cannabis material, depending on how hot the tip is.
  • Flameless Lighters; the majority of these lighters use plasma coils which heat to very high temperatures. There are also Tesla Coil lighters which emit a tiny spark from two charge points producing enough heat for combustion.

Leave me a comment on which ignition source you favor!

Sources:, Hemp Wick vs Butane Lighter: What’s The Best Way To Smoke Weed? Mitchell Colbert, May 25, 2021, Need A Light? 4 Alternatives To Using A Lighter, Patrick Bennett, July 25, 2017

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