The story at a glance
- Vaping has received a lot of attention for its potential harmful effects on the lungs.
- Nicotine-free wellness vaping products are on the rise.
- Much is still unknown about these products and the FDA has issued a warning against their use.
Among vaping trends in recent years, some people are starting to inhale nicotine-free feel-good products that are supposed to improve energy levels and provide more absorbable vitamins like vitamin B12. Some claims include cancer-fighting abilities, cures for conditions like asthma and ADHD, and even prevention of anemia. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning end of 2021 about this category of products, stating that “these claims are unproven and the products may be ineffective, a waste of money, dangerous”.
Vaping has received negative attention due to its potential health effects on young people, especially with companies like JUUL producing various flavors that are particularly appealing to young people.
With vaping without nicotine, many of the concerns are similar. There is not enough information about how these substances interact with our lung tissues when taken in this specific form.
“Just because it’s safe to take [vitamins] one way does not mean it will be safe with another type of absorption,” says Jorge Mercadowho is a physician specializing in pulmonary medicine at NYU Langone to Inc. Hospital. “The lung is not your best organ for absorbing drugs.”
There are still many unknowns about how various substances are absorbed into the lungs and react with the cells. Studies on e-cigarettes as a whole have often focused on the potential harmful effects of flavors in vaping products. These health effects include cytotoxicity or cell toxicity, oxidative stress, and inflammation. In a study on electronic and flavored cigarettes vape pens, Vitamin Vape B12 produced the highest amount of reactive oxidative stress. The study also observed inflammation of lung epithelial cells and macrophages, the white blood cells that recognize and destroy microorganisms and dead cells.
The maker of Vitamin Vape B12 also makes another vape pen related to vitamin B12: Breathe B12. FDA issued a warning to Vitamin Vape in December 2021, stating that “Use of your ‘B12 VITAMINVAPE’ product raises safety concerns for the agency because ingredients or impurities in oral inhalation products may trigger laryngospasm or bronchospasm, may be toxic to tissues in the upper or lower respiratory tract, or may be absorbed and cause adverse systemic effects or organ toxicity.
Many wellness products like supplements and vitamins are unregulated by the FDA, in part because they don’t count as foods or drugs.
“When you have an unregulated industry, you don’t really know what kind of absorption you have with certain substances and vitamins,” Mercado said. Being unregulated also allows companies like Vitamin Vape to enter the market without seeking FDA approval first.
In its statement, the FDA lists the misleading claims the company makes on its website and also states that in this situation, this product counts as a “new drug” to be regulated by the FDA, and therefore must be approved by the FDA. Vitamin Vape could not be reached for comment.
But some of the damage may already be done or may continue to worsen. Vitamin Vape continues to sell its products and has 18,000 followers on Instagram. The FDA has released warning letters to other companies offering similar products, including VitaCig, Eagle Energy, NV Nutrition and VitaStik. Companies are urged to correct any violations of the law. If they don’t comply, the FDA can take enforcement action to keep the products out of the hands of consumers.