You don’t normally think of vaping as a way to improve your health, and that’s probably a good thing, experts say. Yet, the latest trend in the vaping world is something called “wellness vaping.”
As the name implies, wellness vapes contain substances consumers often regard as healthy – vitamins, caffeine, melatonin and so forth. They’re sold with the promise of fighting ADHD, anxiety, depression and other common conditions. Some also claim to boost energy and help you get a good night’s sleep.
But do they really do that? Not according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which issued a warning late last year that the devices are unproven, ineffective and possibly harmful.
They’re not regulated because they don’t contain nicotine. Supplements are largely protected from regulation by the supplement industry’s friends in Congress, and the FDA doesn’t have the explicit authority to regulate non-nicotine vapes.
However, the FDA issued warning letters to several companies last year cautioning them against making unproven health claims and noting that it is illegal to claim health benefits that have not been proven.
The FDA has received complaints about these products being advertised and sold to minors, the agency said.
“Online advertising, especially social media posts, often make false claims and cite the latest ‘scientific study,’ or do not include important details that may apply to you or allow you to make an informed decision,” the FDA cautioned. “Other red flags include claims like ‘miracle cure’ or ‘guaranteed results.’
E-cigarette use rising
The wellness vapes are part of a trend of increased vaping, mostly among younger people. The vaping industry has claimed that vaping – even when it includes nicotine – is somehow safer than smoking traditional cigarettes, a claim researchers generally deny.
Inhaled products can be dangerous and may trigger severe coughing, cause airway tightening, and make speaking and breathing difficult,” the FDA wrote in 2021. People with heart disease, diabetes, lung conditions – such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – or a lung infection may be at greater risk of serious complications, the agency said.
Making health claims for wellness vapes is not only misleading but can also undermine efforts to warn young people of the dangers of vaping, according to experts.
“Marketing vaping products as healthy vapor–vitamin inhalation products represents a potentially new phase in misleading e-cigarette advertising,” wrote researchers at USC in a 2019 journal article. “In the past, e-cigarette companies claimed that their products were less harmful than cigarettes or even completely harmless, but now some marketers are positioning their products as health promoting on the basis of unsubstantiated claims.”
“There are no studies to support the use of vapes for sleeping or energy or wellness, said Dr. Gregory Ratti, a pulmonologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, in a Guardian report. “We really are wary about putting anything unknown in our lungs. The things we recommend are medications that are well-studied,” he says. “What we don’t know about these things is the biggest issue here.”