Philter Labs nets additional funding in quest to build a better portable smoking filter

Philter Labs aims to reduce the stigma associated with vaping tobacco and cannabis. The company’s product is simple enough: It’s a portable filter that, to my surprise, eliminates nearly all secondhand smoke and vapor.

The company today is announcing an additional $1 million in funding from a private equity firm that invests in the cannabis industry. This round brings the San Diego-based company’s total funding to $3 million; it previously raised from Bravos Capital and Explorer Equity Group.

“PHILTER’s mission is to empower responsible adults with the choice to keep the air clean for those around them by filtering their emissions while still protecting a person’s right to vape,” said Philter Labs CEO Christos Nicolaidis. “This new funding allows us to continue to leverage science and our patented technology to eliminate secondhand smoke, reduce waste, and live out our mission to help lead a cultural shift for cleaner air and a better environment.”

The product works as advertised. Take a drag on a vape or joint or cigarette and exhale through the filter. The little filter then grabs all the particulate and, I guess, stores the bad stuff, leaving very little exiting the other side of the filter. Even the most considerable clouds of vapor disappear.

I tried both of the company’s current products, the Phlip ($30) and Pocket ($15). Both use the same filter. The difference is use. The Phlip is designed to put a filter alongside a vape pen. A silicon band ties the filter to most small vapes — it works fine with my Pax Era. This way, with the Phlip, the idea is a person inhales from one end and exhales through the other.

Does it eliminate all the smell and vapor? No, not totally, but the device makes a dramatic reduction.

There are similar products on the market. Smoke Buddy is a longtime favorite of mine, and these work in a similar fashion but have a more pocketable design. I’m more likely to carry this filter because it fits in a pocket without an issue.

There are no buttons to press or batteries to charge. The device is passive, and Philter Labs says each filter will last about 200 exhales. The company has filed half a dozen patents, with three recently being approved for upcoming products.

“Our mission is to inspire a change in the habits that are already out there,” John Grimm, co-inventor and CTO said. “We want to reduce emissions, not only to society but to the environment, and change smoking and vaping.”

Grimm explained that it’s more than reducing the harm. To him, it’s also about reducing the stigma that’s associated with smoking and vaping.

The system uses a propriety filtering process that breaks down the emissions at a molecular level through a five-step filtration process. The company says its technology captures and dissolves the particulates, pollutants and VOCs, which results in clean air exiting the filter.

I asked Grimm if the company has published a white paper on their findings. They have not; though he pointed out that Philter Labs founded a scientific advisory board (SSAB) that includes toxicologists formally from big tobacco, along with former executives from Dosist, Curaleaf and Juul.

Storz & Bickel sidesteps Apple’s vaping app ban

Users of Storz & Bickel’s vaporizers can once again connect their vapes to iPhones. The company’s solution comes several months after Apple enacted a ban on apps for tobacco and cannabis vaporizers. This time around, Storz & Bickel turned to a web app to provide iPhone users with expanded controls over their vapes.

I found the process straightforward and requiring just a few more steps than installing a traditional app. First, using the right browser, navigate to Storz-Bickel.com and click the link on the home page. Press the Connect button and load the device. From there the web app works as advertised, providing access to temperature control and different settings on two of Storz & Bickel’s vapes.

Right now, Storz & Bickel’s web app features most of the functionality of the company’s Android app. Peter Popplewell, Canopy Growth’s CTO, tells TechCrunch more functions are coming, including the ability to update firmware. The company will soon roll out similar web apps to other products, like Juju Joints.

The web app requires the use of specific third-party browsers, as Safari and Chrome lack a critical function. Users need to install a browser that supports Bluetooth connections. Storz & Bickel recommends iPhone owners us Bluefy or WebBLE.

In my testing, I used the free Bluefy browser. The connection was reliable and easy to use. The experience isn’t as seamless as an app, but this solution is the only way to restore the features lost after Apple pulled the company’s app from the App Store.

Banned iOS apps like these from Storz & Bickel give users more control and transparency into consuming cannabis. Some allow users to fine-tune temperature and control dosage amounts. A few vape apps display detailed lab reports around the contents of pre-packaged cartridges, offering the consumer protections against harmful chemicals.

This ban came after illicit vaping products caused a public health crisis. In response, Apple instituted a complete removal on vaping apps rather than filtering apps from legitimate companies like Canopy Growth, Pax and others. Now, six months after the ban, these companies are turning out workarounds to restore advertised functions disabled by Apple’s ban.

How companies are working around Apple’s ban on vaping apps

Apple banned vaping apps in November 2019. Since then, the company has said very little about its decision, leaving many companies upset and confused about its blanket prohibition.

Three months later, companies are working around Apple’s ban. Here’s how they’re doing it.

Apple’s wide-sweeping ban on vaping affected apps from Juul, Pax and many others, including apps that calculate electrical resistance because they can be used to build vape components. It appears to have hit the cannabis industry at a higher rate than tobacco, as few tobacco vapes have a companion application.

The removal was sudden but not unexpected, given the climate at the time. In 2019, the vaping industry suffered a crisis as the Centers for Disease Control stumbled through a health scare caused by illicit products. Industry experts quickly identified a filler additive as the source of the illnesses, but these reports were ignored for months, creating widespread panic. Consumer sentiment promptly settled on the conclusion that all vapes are harmful, even when clear data shows the opposite. Vapes sourced through legal means are proven to be safer alternatives than other consumption methods.

It’s important to note Apple didn’t disable the apps or force the removal from phones. Apps that had already been downloaded continued to work, though they could not be updated.