Are you bored with vitamins from green smoothies? Concerned that tossing a pill or capsule in your mouth and chugging a glass of water doesn’t look cool enough? Too woke to absorb nutrients through your intestines? Then you are the perfect candidate for a “vitamin vaporizer”!
If you have never heard of such a thing, don’t worry. You are not missing out on any amazing health benefits. Vitamin vaping is not a healthy way to smoke, and it’s definitely not an effective way to get your vitamins. What is it? A perfect case study in how profits are made when unhealthy products are marketed as healthy. It’s also an example of why you should always look into the science behind a new “health” product before buying into the hype. So, what exactly is a vitamin vaporizer? Let’s take a closer look.
VitaCig, founded in 2014, is the company we have to thank for the advent of vitamin vaporizers. The homepage of the VitaCig website describes the product as “an innovative tobacco-free, nicotine-free vitamin and essential oil inhalation, aromatherapy device”. The vaporizer uses water vapor and vegetable glycerin to deliver a mixture of essential oils, botanical extracts, and vitamins.
VitaCig advertises the vitamin vaporizer as “The healthiest way to smoke” due to its natural ingredients and lack of nicotine and tar. Allusions to cigarettes are scattered throughout the website, with the implication clearly being that a VitaCig delivers the enjoyment of a regular cigarette with none of the negative effects.
I can concede that no nicotine is better than nicotine, and if the VitaCig were marketed purely as an alternative to smoking I might not have a problem with it. But according to a disclaimer on the site, “VitaCig devices are not smoking cessation products and have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, nor are they intended to treat, prevent or cure any disease or condition.” What exactly they are intended to do remains to be seen.
Inhale your vitamins.
One of the selling points of the VitaCig is its vitamin content, and I was surprised to find that there is actually some history behind the idea of inhaling vitamins. Specifically, some studies have found that inhalation is an effective way of increasing vitamin B12 levels (1). However, the safety of this method is unknown, and the researchers considered it no better than injections. Perhaps this is why vitamin inhalation hasn’t been studied in recent decades. While the idea is interesting, I hesitate to trust VitaCigs based on a few small studies of one vitamin from half a century ago.
Even though B12 is the only proven inhalable vitamin, VitaCigs boast a whole array of vitamins, including vitamins A (a minuscule 1 IU), C, E, and CoQ10. The idea is that “a small amount” of the vitamins is preserved when the liquid is vaporized, and the vitamins are then absorbed through the mucous membranes of your mouth. The actual absorption rate, though, isn’t specified, probably because no research has been done on the inhalation of any vitamin besides B12.
Beyond the dubious health benefits, there is concern that vitamin vaporizers may have negative health effects. While the ingredients include seemingly innocuous substances like orange extract and mint, the composition of these substances may be changed during vaporization. In other words, we know what goes into the vaporizer, but can’t be sure about what comes out of it. Also, VitaCig warns the vaporizer oils may be poisonous if ingested, and you shouldn’t use their products if pregnant or nursing. Other than that, of course, they’re very safe and healthy!
By the company’s own admission, VitaCigs aren’t a smoking cessation product, and they certainly aren’t a reliable source of vitamins. So, I am led to the conclusion that the real appeal lies in their sleek appearance and the promise of benefits that are specific enough to be enticing but vague enough to be fulfilled by the placebo effect. If VitaCig does one thing well, that would be blurring the lines between health product and fashion statement.
No one knows if you will actually absorb a significant amount of vitamins from the vaporizer, but it has a “classy design”, comes in six colors and flavors, and even has an LED light! There is a VitaCig for seemingly any occasion in life, from Classic Vanilla for relaxation to Cool Citrus for waking up to Slim for weight loss to Kama Sutra … You get the idea.
Disclaimers notwithstanding, each product on the VitaCig website lists a variety of alleged health benefits. All the usual suspects like increased energy, aphrodisiac effects, cancer prevention, skin health, invisibility, and X-ray vision. Some of these claims are backed by studies, but many are not. In any event, none of the ingredients besides B12 have been tested for absorption when inhaled. It could turn out that the VitaCigs don’t even deliver most of their wholesome ingredients, let alone substantial benefits.
Herbal supplements, cleverly disguised.
By now, the lackluster evidence behind VitaCig vapable vitamins has been exposed. To the company’s credit, they are completely cruelty-free and vegan (and gluten-free, for what it’s worth). The device itself is innovative in the pure sense, but not all innovations are particularly useful or worth your money. The most impressive quality of the company is that it has essentially taken your grandmother’s herbal supplements and made them cool by putting them in an e-cigarette.
Classic herbal supplements are notoriously ineffective, unregulated, and filled with ingredients of unknown origins. And these supplements are made no more potent, effective, or safe by being inhaled. But by marketing them as a unique sensory experience and a form of self-expression, VitaCig has made them irresistible to younger generations. Despite my skepticism, the luxurious aesthetic of the VitaCig Instagram page pulled in even me for longer than I care to admit.
If scientists ever decide to conduct more studies on vitamin inhalation, I will be very interested in seeing the results. But for now, I see vapable vitamins as little more than a frivolous fashion accessory. VitaCig Cool Citrus for a revitalized morning? I think I will stick with my coffee.
Edit: I do not endorse this product.