A relatively new fad in the commercial tobacco realm is vaping essential oils. Essential oil vaping devices (also called diffuser sticks, personal diffusers, or aromatherapy vape pens) heat a liquid mixture of essential oil, water, and vegetable glycerin into an inhalable vapor. If this sounds like electronic cigarettes, that’s because they are practically the same thing. In fact, legally speaking, most states would consider these products e-cigarettes. The standard definition of an e-cigarette includes any device that simulates smoking, regardless of whether the liquid contains nicotine. However, the companies selling these devices strive to differentiate themselves from e-cigarettes by advertising their products as nicotine-free aromatherapy devices.

Companies advertise essential oil vaping devices as healthy and safe, promoting the idea that these products are good for you. We’ve seen the health narrative from the tobacco industry, but essential oil vape companies take this claim a step further when they assert that vaping essential oils is actually nutritional. For example, HealthVape advertises its products as “vitamin-infused” vaporizers. Another company, MyMoods, advertises its diffusers as “filled with pure essential oil blends that are perfectly engineered to support your mind, body and spirit, naturally.” These companies strongly imply that their products are safer than e-cigarettes, although they provide no data to back this up. HealthVape’s only response to the question “Are HealthVape Products Safe?” is “We use our products every day and feel very safe doing so.” Not very convincing, if you ask me.

Regardless of what the companies claim, essential oil vaping devices are not risk-free. The truth is that these devices can be just as harmful as e-cigarettes, as both are introducing foreign substances into the lungs. Like e-cigarettes, essential oil vape pens heat liquids to very high temperatures and users inhale a vapor into their lungs. When heated to such high temperatures, essential oils become volatile organic compounds. The Surgeon General warns that, in low levels, these chemicals can result in nausea and dizziness and, in high levels, can result in death. The health risks of inhaling these chemicals are so high that even essential oil companies warn against vaping their products. Consumers may be led to believe that these pens will aid in tobacco cessation, but no data exists to support their effectiveness as cessation devices. The companies themselves admit that these products are not a replacement for smoking. As is typical with tobacco-related products, essential oil vaping devices offer zero benefit and a mountain of potential harm.  

By Mary Fleming, Legal Research Assistant
December 12, 2022