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Caffeine in E-Liquids: Everything You Need to Know

There’s been a lot of buzz recently about caffeine in e-liquids, or more specifically, about a caffeine vape pen called Eagle Energy Vapor. A writer for the New York Times called the product “Red Bull for the lungs,” but despite some enthusiastic commentary, there is a great deal of uncertainty about vaping caffeine. So does it work, and is it safe?

Caffeine in E-Liquids: How it Works 

The basic premise is simple: if you inhale caffeine instead of drinking it, you’ll get a faster dose of the substance and you won’t have to carry a flask of coffee around with you if you’re out and about. Eagle Energy Vapor also points out that it contains no calories.

The Eagle Energy caffeine inhaler is like a disposable e-cigarette containing caffeine, activating as you puff and (supposedly) lasting for around 500 puffs in total before it runs out. The energy drink flavored e-liquid contains caffeine from guarana, and has been designed specifically with caffeine in mind, according to the company’s owner Elliot Mashford. 

The device claims to offer about 2 mg of caffeine per puff, and 10 to 20 puffs is classed as a single “serving.” This is much less than you’d get from a cup of coffee (20 to 40 mg vs. around 150 mg), but because the caffeine doesn’t have to make its way through your digestive system, it’s claimed to be more efficient and reportedly still produces a caffeine rush.

Does Vaping Caffeine Work? 

Mashford says that caffeine needs to be heated to a lower temperature than nicotine to be vaped effectively, so “you can’t just add caffeine to nicotine juice” (as some have attempted). Purpose-made devices like his, he claims, are the only way to really get caffeine by vaping. 

However, Dr. Farsalinos expressed some skepticism about the whole idea to Forbes, pointing out that there are no studies on the absorption of caffeine through the lungs, and adding “You get much more caffeine from coffee that you can get from e-cigs. You need much higher caffeine levels in order to have an effect.”

Those who’ve tried the product do claim that it has the intended effect, but there are many uncertainties about whether there is much of a benefit to inhaling caffeine rather than just drinking it. You may get a dose, but there are unanswered questions about its efficiency.

Are There Risks to Vaping Caffeine? 

E-cigarettes aren’t completely safe, and although the risks of inhaling caffeine – at least in theory – would be similar to those of ordinary vaping, it will almost certainly carry risks too. One point which has already been raised relates to flavorings: Eagle Energy Vapor uses artificial food flavorings, like many e-liquids, and there is much uncertainty about their risks when inhaled. They’re improved for ingestion, but not inhalation.

The risks of caffeine vaping are probably about as minor as those of ordinary vaping, but unlike vapers, coffee-drinkers wouldn’t otherwise be inhaling something even worse. Smokers have been conditioned to inhale nicotine through years of smoking, so continuing to inhale it through vaping makes sense. The same motivation doesn’t exist for coffee-drinkers, so is there any real reason to open your lungs up to potential risk?

Conclusion – Is Vaping Caffeine Increasing Harm? 

Vaping is almost certainly safer than smoking, but will vaping caffeine be safer than drinking coffee? It seems unlikely. Vaping is harm reduction, but vaping caffeine could easily be the exact opposite. People are welcome to give it a try, but they should be aware that it’s probably safer (and more efficient) to just drink your coffee.  

Resources 

Forbes: Catching the New Trend: Caffeine Inhalation

Forbes: Eagle Energy Vapor: Following the Five Hour Energy Model

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