According to a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine study released this year, conclusive evidence suggests that e-cigarettes (with nicotine) pose less risk to people than smoking traditional cigarettes. As the vaporizer industry continues to grow, companies are now harnessing the cultural trend of vaping, mixing in some nutritional supplements and marketing dollars to build businesses. At least three companies, including VitaStik, VitaminVape, and Nutriair, are selling vaporizers filled with supplements and extracts like vitamin B-12 and echinacea.
According to multiple studies, there is no proof that taking vitamins and nutritional supplements in any form promotes long-term health benefits. If swallowing a multivitamin pill doesn't have tangible benefits, then vaping vitamins is not likely to help either, public health experts say.
"This is likely a big advertising gimmick with no legitimate science behind it--I'm skeptical," says Dr. David Abrams, a professor of social and behavioral sciences at New York University who previously worked at the National Institutes of Health.
Vaping, Abrams says, is good a alternative for nicotine delivery to replace more dangerous modes of ingestion like smoking, but he sees no point or science supporting the need to inhale nutritional supplements.
Science or not, entrepreneurs like Josh Matzkin have built burgeoning business in the space. Matzkin's Nutriair will bring in $5 million in revenue this year and has sold more than two million nutritional supplement-filled vaporizers to customers in the U.S., China, and 10 other countries via Amazon and Taoboa, which is owned by Alibaba.
Matzkin and co-founder Frank Lewis created NV Nutrition LLC in 2014 and launched NutroVape in Clearwater, Florida, to sell vapable, and inhalable, nutritional supplements. This year, the company changed its name to NutriVape. Matzkin says they got the idea after Lewis was in the hospital, and heard from a nurse that a few doctors were working on inhalable probiotics. Matzkin and Lewis, who had started a different company to make 3-D-printed ostomy devices, decided to jump into the inhalable nutritional supplement space.
"There are many benefits to inhaling something that people don't realize. If you take a multivitamin, you'll excrete most of it out because your body only absorbs a small amount of it," says Matzkin, who studied business and played football at Penn State University. "When you inhale something, you need a smaller amount of those vitamins to get the same effect and it works quicker. Drinking coffee or taking a pill can take 45 minutes, but inhaling works within minutes."
In a video on Nutriair's website, Matzkin says he started the company with the vision to "make people's lives better and easier" by making products like the company's "Energy" vape pen, which contains caffeine, taurine, and amino acids, and the "Sleep" vape, which contains melatonin and chamomile and passionflower extract. The company also sells vapes that it claims will curb your appetite, and a hangover helper made with milk thistle extract.
"It allows you to feel the way you want when you want, without the lingering effects of eating or drinking something," Matzkin says in the video.
The FDA does not regulate Nutriair's products since the company makes no specific health claims. Nutriair uses a contract manufacturer in the U.S. to supply its nutritional supplements, which are mixed with propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin so it can turn into an aerosol when heated. The vaporizers are made in China.
In 2013, Dr. Larry Appel, director of the Johns Hopkins Welch Center for Prevention, Epidemiology, and Clinical Research, said there is no shortcut to long-term health in reference to the John Hopkins research about vitamins. "If you follow a healthy diet, you can get all of the vitamins and minerals you need from food," Appel said.
Matzkin acknowledges that vaping has a stigma, and he says his company is currently working on a new product line of inhalable nutrient supplements. Matzkin says he couldn't reveal details but says it will be releasing a "totally different delivery system" with patented technology.
"People are starting to open up to vaping. There are just better ways to do things than in the past," says Matzkin, referring to inhaling your nutritional supplements compared to taking a pill. "We're just trying to be innovative."