Forget smoking nicotine, cannabis, and even Viagra. The latest fad is to vape vitamins. That's right – the tobacco industry is now rebranding itself with a new, "healthy" image to appeal to a wellness-orientated generation.
When e-cigs first hit the market, they were sold as a healthy alternative to traditional cigarettes with one study in 2015 claiming they were “around 95 percent less harmful”. The jury's still out on exactly how much healthier they are and more recent studies have also linked vaping to lung inflammation, cancer, immune system repression, and windpipe damage.
And so, while the consensus is that they probably are better for you than regular cigarettes, the vaping industry is changing tack. Several companies are now selling e-juice concoctions made from vitamins and essential oils, and skipping the nicotine.
So, what's the medical verdict?
“To me, [using vitamins and nutrients] is a marketing ploy to sell this product and make it look healthier. Consumers associate vitamins with health,” Regan Bailey, a nutritional epidemiologist at Purdue University, told Scientific American. “These products might be completely safe, but they might not be. We know literally nothing about the safety or efficacy of inhaling vitamins.”
Even the vape companies themselves debate the relative merits (and safety) of inhaling different vitamins, picking and choosing scientific studies like they are at a pick n’ mix stand at your local cineplex.
Take George Michalopoulos, who started his vitamin vaping business to provide vitamin B supplements to vegans like himself. He told Scientific American he specifically chose not to include vitamin D in his products because "inhalation of vitamin D might be toxic".
Avi Kwitel, who is co-founder and CEO of Sparq, thinks differently. Vitamin D is incorporated into his products because of research he says shows that "inhaling vitamin D is a potentially promising and safe strategy". That was one study – and it was on neonatal rats.
The moral of the story? There isn't enough evidence to either prove or disprove the health benefits (and dangers) of inhaling various vitamins but until there is, it just isn't worth the risk. The language used by these companies mirror the language used by many in the supplement and cosmetic industries – vague, misleading, and sometimes downright false statements dressed up as scientifically credible facts.
For example, Michalopoulos' companies, Breathe and VitaminVape, even include a "science" page, that makes various unsubstantiated claims like "vitamin B12 is NOT sensitive to the heat associated with vaporizing" and "[B12 inhalation] is many times more efficient than pill absorption, and comparable only to injections."
As always, the best way to make sure you are getting the recommended daily doses of vitamins is to eat them or, as in the case of vitamin d, get some sunlight, unless you are specifically told to take them by your medical practitioner (ie you have a deficiency or are pregnant). Most healthy adults should be able to get the nutrients they need through their diet, not through pills, not through IV drip, and definitely not through vaping. Let's just say, it's incredibly telling when even Dr Oz – known for his endorsement of certain questionable "health" practices – is telling readers "Don't be fooled!"
[H/T: Scientific American]