Safety of caffeine inhalers questioned

Posted Dec. 23, 2011, at 8:06 a.m.

WASHINGTON — Breathable caffeine dispensed from canisters that fit in jean pockets and are allowed in carry-on luggage is a ‘club drug’ that may be dangerous to teenagers, a New York senator said Thursday.

Democrat Charles Schumer wrote Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg asking her to review the safety and legality of the AeroShot Pure Energy caffeine inhaler, a yellow and gray canister of caffeine powder and B vitamins resembling a tube of lipstick. The inhaler is set to hit store shelves in New York and Boston next month.

AeroShot will be sold over the counter with no age restrictions and is touted for its convenience and zero calories. If taken with alcohol, the mixture may have effects similar to caffeinated alcohol drinks tied to hospitalizations in the past, Schumer said. Doctors say it may carry neurological and cardiovascular risks.

“The product is nothing more than a club drug designed to give users the ability to drink until they drop,” Schumer said.

The FDA will review information about the product, Doug Karas, a spokesman for the agency, said in an email. The agency will respond directly to Schumer on the issues he raised.

Last year, at Schumer’s urging, the FDA stopped sales of caffeinated alcoholic beverages after they were linked to hospitalizations and deaths.

The inhaler is sold online by Cambridge, Mass.- based Breathable Foods Inc. and The Lab Store, in Paris. AeroShot advertising in Europe focuses on drinking and partying, Schumer said in a statement, adding that he’s concerned it could be a health hazard to teens.

The inhaler was created by David Edwards, a professor at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, who also invented Le Whif, a calorie-free inhalable chocolate.

AeroShot delivers 100 milligrams of caffeine, the same amount in a large cup of coffee. The caffeine is absorbed in the mouth and digestive tract, not through the lungs, according to a fact sheet from Breathable Foods. AeroShot is priced at $2.99 and is not intended for anyone younger than 12, according to the product’s website.

“It is a safe product that delivers caffeine and a mix of B vitamins to the mouth, and it does not contain the mystery chemicals found in other energy products like taurine or glucuronic acid,” said Tom Hadfield, chief executive officer of Breathable Foods, in an e-mail.

The company’s claims are unsubstantiated, Schumer said, noting the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages the non- medical use of caffeine by children and adolescents. The Elk Grove Village, Ill.-based doctor’s group wrote AeroShot’s manufacturer Wednesday about concerns over caffeine’s effect on developing neurologic and cardiovascular systems and the potential for the product to exacerbate asthma.

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