By Erik Goldman, Editor
It may sound like a satire right out of The Onion, but its the honest truth: a Bellevue, WA-based company called mCig is trying to get people to inhale their vitamins.
The company's VitaCigs are $5 devices based on the same vaporizing technologies used in "e-cigs." The difference is that the VitaCig delivers inhalable, vapor-based, nicotine-free vitamins and phytonutrients. These "phytonutrients" include compounds derived from cannabis, but not THC, and in its annual report the company notes that VitaCigs provide "some of the effects that the marijuana plant provides, without the THC-induced high.
The same group does produce a separate line of cannabis mCigs for states in which recreational marijuana has been legalized.
The company claims to be "simultaneously disrupting Big Tobacco and Big Pharma," by providing the world's 1.2 billion smokers with a smoking alternative that is decidedly less harmful. Though the company makes no specific health claims for its vita-vapes, the very notion of delivering vitamins in vapor form seems to imply that the product creates a healthy habit.
Whether this is true remains to be seen. The concept of inhaling vitamins is new, and while in theory it is possible that some vitamins may be absorbable via the lungs, this mode of delivery has not been seriously studied. Little is known about dosing of inhaled vitamins, bioavailability, or bioequivalence with standard oral dosing.
VitaCig's "VitaJuice" formulas bear names like "Energize," "Calm" and the like. The manufacturer notes that "Every VitaCig includes the following base vitamins A, B, C, E and CoQ10." To this base are added flavorings and additional nutritional components alleged to enhance the intended effect of the formula.
For example, the "Grace" formula--presumably for joint health and balance--is supposed to contain "Mint plus cherry and collagen," while the "Relax" formula contains "Blueberry plus Black Currant and B-Myrcene, a natural turpene."
With it's clean yet colorful graphics, VitaCig is definitely going after a youthful customer base, one that is equal parts health- and fashion-conscious. Since its launch roughly a year ago, VitaCigs have generated just over half a million dollars in revenue--a modest figure given the billions in revenue projected by the Big Tobacco firms that have largely taken over the e-cig market. But company CEO, Paul Rosenberg, says that 21% of its current 30,000 customers are repeat users, and that VitaCigs as well as the eCig industry as a whole are still in their infancy.
In addition to the scientific questions around the biology of inhaling vitamins, the emergence of the VitaCig poses some significant regulatory questions: Should it be regulated as a dietary supplement? A medical device? A drug delivery system?
Like so many other new developments at the crossroads of technology and healthcare, this one defies easy categorization.
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