NEW YORK (PIX11)—It claims to be a nutritious, safe pick-me-up, but the fact that one of the countrys most powerful legislators is calling for it to not be placed on store shelves indicates otherwise.
Aeroshots, an inhaled powder described by its manufacturer as "breatheable energy," has more caffeine per dose than a can of Red Bull. It's currently on sale in France and online, but is scheduled to have its debut on U.S. store shelves January 1st in New York and Boston. However, on Thursday, Senator Charles Schumer called for Aeroshots' U.S. debut to be postponed, possibly indefinitely.
"I've written to the FDA ," Schumer said at a newsconference in his Midtown office, "They should check it out, see if it has negative consequences, and don't let it go on the shelves until it is thoroughly checked out."
Aeroshot's inventor, David Edwards, created the substance with not only a level of caffeine equivalent to a large cup of coffee, 100mg, but each inhaler shot also contains niacin and two B-vitamins, which qualifies it to be a nutritional supplement that's largely immune to the FDA marketing approval process.
However, Aeroshot's own advertising doesn't show people being healthy. It shows them partying and drinking. Schumer says that he's concerned that young people will inhale multiple shots in a short period of time in order to stay primed to consume alcohol.
There's an additional risk as well to inhaled stimulants, as opposed to those which are swallowed. Coffee, for example, travels through the digestive tract, then its caffeine is absorbed into the bloodstream, which then sends the stimulant to the brain. It is a gradual effect.
Inhaled substances spur much faster reactions. It's the reason, for instance, that people smoke -- to most quickly feel the effects of the stimulants in cigarettes. It's also why some medical experts are alarmed.
"This would be the first product where caffeine would be delivered to the body very rapidly," Dr. Sharon Levy of The Children's Hospital, Boston, told PIX11 News in an exclusive New York interview. "There really is the potential for caffeine to be delivered through this new mechanism," Levy said. "It could get people high."
As chair of the Committee on Substance Abuse at the American Academy of Pediatrics, she first sounded the warning that Aeroshots could harm people -- especially young people -- who bought it. It led the organization to write a letter to Senator Schumer this week.
"They came to us," Senator Schumer said, "Because they know what we did to 4Loko."
4Loko is an energy drink which had combined caffeine and alcohol. Schumer successfully got the drink pulled from store shelves after a number of binge-drinking deaths involving the beverage were reported. 4Loko was permitted to return to store shelves after it was reformulated without caffeine.
As for Aeroshots, the senator acknowledged Thursday that by demonizing the new product, he may actually cause it to become more popular. However, he said, his intention is to prevent the sale of the product before it can become popular if, that is, it's actually dangerous. The senator said he is open to the possibility that Aeroshots may not actually pose a danger, but said the only way to know whether or not it does is to test it, which has not yet occurred.
"When a product has many dangerous uses, we just don't let peole come up and buy it," Schumer said. "Some products have safe uses and dangerous uses. We've got to be wary about the dangerous uses."
With the release date of Aeroshots during the holiday season, it's not clear that there are personnel at the FDA available to stop the product from landing on store shelves January 1st, despite Schumer's efforts. However, as his track record on 4Loko has shown, it is possible to pull Aeroshots from stores after the first of the year, if necessary.