Inhalable caffeine stirs controversy

Jacqueline Lainez, a first-year student at Santa Monica College, needs a daily dose of caffeine to get through her day. For Lainez, a typical morning consists of waking up at 6:30 a.m., driving her sister to school before heading to SMC, getting stuck in traffic for over an hour, then spending an additional hour looking for parking. Individuals like Lainez hardly have time to stop at Starbucks for a quick coffee run, but now there is a new product on the market that is redefining the meaning of the term “instant coffee.” AeroShot, by Breathable Foods Inc., is a zero-calorie inhalant that delivers a dry, airborne shot of energy to use at any time and any place.

According to its website, each AeroShot contains 100 milligrams of caffeine and B vitamins dispensed in about four to six puffs, which is equivalent to the amount contained in an average cup of coffee.

The inhalant, which resembles a lipstick canister, is only available at stores in Boston and New York City, but can otherwise be purchased from the product website at the retail price of $2.99

However, no legitimate statement has been released regarding its safety, which means the product hit the market before the Food and Drug Administration approved it.

Tamara N. Ward, FDA public affairs official, stated that AeroShot has been marketed as a dietary supplement, which means that it does not require FDA approval, but that its manufacturers are responsible for marketing a safe product.

“FDA does not review these products for safety or effectiveness prior to marketing,” says Ward. “If a safety issue arises, the FDA can investigate and take steps to have the product removed from the market.”

Although Breathable Foods claims that their product complies with FDA standards, worries over its safety and legitimacy have driven it to be reviewed for approval.

As stated on CNN, New York Senator Charles Schumer raised concerns about the product being misused by kids and teenagers. Schumer sent a letter to the FDA urging them to approve AeroShot’s safety for consumers.

“We will cooperate fully with the FDA’s review,” says the CEO of Breathable Foods, Tom Hadfield, in a statement to the public. The company says they are confident that the review will confirm AeroShot’s safety, and prove that the product complies with FDA regulations.

Cynthia Gonzalez, SMC professor of nutrition and registered dietitian, feels strongly about the dangers of AeroShot.

“If it could be absorbed through the nasal tissues, I would have great concern about its immediate access to the central nervous system and its impact there,” says Gonzalez.

“I would definitely not advocate inhalable caffeine for anyone,” says Carole McCaskill, SMC professor of nursing.

McCaskill claims that products like AeroShot can be dangerous to pregnant women, and can lead to fetal heart increase.

“[As an alternative to AeroShot], I would recommend a short nap, perhaps in the car or even in the library, and a moderate amount of coffee or tea for alertness,” McCaskill says.

If approved by the FDA, students can get a dose of caffeine whenever needed, even in places where beverages like coffee aren’t allowed, such as the library and in classrooms.

“It sounds like it could come in handy for anyone who’s in a hurry,” says Lainez. “But I don’t think I’d ever use [AeroShot]. The fact that it’s inhalable makes me a little scared to even try it.”