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A new craze has people ‘vaping’ caffeine

Instead of coffee beans, the active ingredients are guarana (an Amazonian plant rich in caffeine), taurine (a supplement used in energy drinks), and ginseng.

Like e-cigarettes, these devices use a heating element to vaporize the ingredients to provide a stimulating hit when inhaled.

The New York Times described the experience as “Red Bull for the lungs.”

While a 12-ounce cup of coffee contains between 95 and 200 milligrams of caffeine, a standard “serving” of inhaled caffeine is roughly 20 to 40 milligrams, with each caffeinated puff containing about two milligrams, according to Eagle Energy Vapor, a company that makes one of these devices.

Is caffeine vaping safe?
The simple answer is that we don’t know. According to the Times, the US Food and Drug Administration has not reviewed the Eagle inhaler to assess its safety. “This isn’t a medication, it’s safety has not been reviewed by the FDA, and they should [exercise] caution,” Nieca Goldberg, a cardiologist at New York University Langone Medical Center, told Business Insider.

Consuming too much caffeine, whether from energy drinks or in vapor-form, can cause symptoms such as a rapid or fluttering heartbeat, lightheadedness, upset stomach, and overall feelings of jitteriness. At high enough levels, it can make blood pressure spike and cause heart problems, Goldberg said.

As with drugs like marijuana, caffeine is absorbed into the bloodstream faster if you inhale it than if you eat or drink it. With coffee, the caffeine you’re drinking is typically diluted with milk or water. But vaporized caffeine can be inhaled much more quickly, and Goldberg is concerned that caffeine vapers might up their consumption over time.

What it’s like to inhale caffeine
Alex Williams, a style reporter for the Times, tried the Eagle Energy Vapor. He claimed that after five puffs of caffeine, his fingers tingled, and after 10, he felt a buzz. But the experience was a little bizarre: “it felt a bit as if one had been freebasing a Jolly Rancher Cherry Stix,” Williams said.

Given the potential downsides of caffeine vaping, perhaps we should stick to traditional coffee for now.

And “maybe, people should focus on a better night’s sleep,” Goldberg said.

This article was originally published on Business Insider. Copyright 2015.

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