‘Wellness’ vaporizers are all the rage. But are they healthy or just hype?

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A new trend is emerging in the world of vaping, which promises great health benefits. Known as “wellness vapes,” they contain vitamins or other supplements instead of nicotine and tout claims of increased energy, increased immunity, and a better night’s sleep.

Related: How Juul Gets Kids Addicted To Vaping: It’s Even Worse Than You Think | nancy jo sales

Wellness vaporizers or “nutritional supplement diffusers,” which allow users to inhale ingredients such as vitamin B12, caffeine, melatonin, or essential oils, have gained popularity alongside e-cigarettes. They come in slim cartridges with glossy packaging and flashy names like Inhale Health and NutriAir, are sold on websites around the world, and are marketed primarily to young people. Some claim to combat ADHD or treat anxiety or depression.

But regulators and other experts warn that these products do not live up to their claims. In the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned consumers late last year that wellness vapers are unproven, ineffective and could be harmful if used. Vapes do not need FDA approval to be on the market because they do not contain nicotine, and the agency has not authorized any vaping products to treat or prevent health conditions or diseases.

Still, the number and types of wellness vaporizers are growing. According to Irfan Rahman, a professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center and director of its Flavor and Inhalation Toxicology Research Center, vaporizers hit the market about three or four years ago and their popularity has steadily increased.

In fact, a recent Stanford University study of 6,000 people found that 4% of younger teens and 24% of young adults have used non-nicotine vape products, and about a quarter of them didn’t know what. the products contained.

The rise of wellness vaping comes as overall e-cigarette use rises, leaving governments scrambling to curb the rise of vaping among young people. Last month, the FDA ordered Juul to remove its popular products from the market, though that ban is currently being appealed.

Vaporizers that have the allure of something cute and wholesome could undermine efforts to warn young people about the dangers of vaping, experts say.

“Marketing vaping products as healthy vapor inhalation and vitamin products represents a potentially new phase in misleading e-cigarette advertising,” the USC researchers wrote in a 2019 journal article. “In the past, companies e-cigarette vendors claimed their products were less harmful than cigarettes or even completely harmless, but now some vendors are positioning their products as health promoting based on unsubstantiated claims.

Meanwhile, the FDA has warned that these vaporizers could have adverse effects. “Inhaled products can be dangerous and can even cause a severe cough, narrow airways, and make it difficult to speak and breathe,” regulators wrote in 2021. People with heart disease, diabetes, lung conditions, such as asthma or obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or a lung infection may have a higher risk of serious complications, the agency said.

Medications can be inhaled — just think of asthma inhalers — but it’s not known whether inhaled vitamins or melatonin can be absorbed into the bloodstream, says Dr. Gregory Ratti, a pulmonologist at the University of Southwestern Medical Center. Texas in Dallas.

Virginia tobacco and menthol flavored vaping e-cigarette products at a convenience store in California. Photograph: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images

There are no studies to support the use of vaporizers for sleep, energy or wellness, he says. “We’re really wary of putting something unknown into our lungs. What we recommend are medications that are well studied,” she says. “What we don’t know about these things is the biggest problem here.”

Ratti adds that flavorings added to make vapes more appealing, such as banana or watermelon, can cause lung injury. Vaporizers and the propellants that send them into your lungs can include things like propylene glycol, flavorings of unknown origin, and glycerin. “If those go to the lungs, that’s concerning,” she says.

Wellness vaping companies often say that their products are “safe to use” but cite no evidence of safety testing. Vitamins are necessary to keep people healthy, but most vitamin intake occurs through the gut, and researchers say a balanced diet, not additional supplements, is the key.

The lungs are made for oxygen and not for these complex chemical compounds.

Irfan Rahman

Rahman has studied some nicotine-free wellness vapes and found oxidative stress (damage to lung cells) caused by these devices, especially vitamin B12 vapes. It’s probably due to the complexity of the vitamin’s chemical structure, he says. He also co-authored a paper in 2018 that found some flavorings cause cell damage. “The lungs are made for oxygen and not for these complex chemical compounds.”

Ratti points out that new vaping companies are constantly popping up online, making it hard to keep up with the latest trends. There are at least 10 brands of vitamin and wellness vaporizers for sale online. The devices often use the terms “aromatherapy stick” or “personal diffuser” to avoid confusion with vaporizers, but they have the same technology.

Nicotine-free vape products are considered supplements, a largely unregulated world, and customers have no guarantee that the ingredients listed are actually in the vape. A recent study of dietary supplements found that almost 800 of them contained prescription drugs and other substances.

Ratti says he asks questions in his practice about patients’ use of nicotine, but feels doctors need to be more direct when asking about vaping non-nicotine substances like melatonin or vitamins. “We could be losing it,” she says. “Patients don’t volunteer information to us because they don’t want us to know.”

It’s important for people to recognize that unsubstantiated claims are being made, and in the end, says Ratti, there are no shortcuts to regaining health and improving quality of life and sleep.

“It’s easy to get sucked into flashy labels and slogans,” he says. “At a minimum, they can be ineffective, but at worst, they could be harmful and exacerbate other health effects.”

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