The months ahead are going to involve a massive marketing push for vaping products of all kinds, after the Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology lifted its sales ban earlier this year.
And while for many people vaping provides a valid way to quit smoking, it still involves the highly addictive stimulant nicotine.
There are issues with some of the other ingredients too: for example the impact of ingesting sugar for flavor-loving vapers and the possibility of a toxic reaction involving some of those flavors and the solvent used to deliver them.
It’s for those reasons that when new brands of nicotine vapes start rushing the UAE soon — some from big international tobacco companies eager for a share of a lucrative new market — there will also be a “free-from,” UAE BioVape device ready to compete with them.
Emirati Sara Al Madani, who counts among her ventures Sara Al Madani Fashion and a tech and production company in Los Angeles, worked with New York-based entrepreneur Mustafa Khawaja on the project.
The pair, who worked together on several businesses before marrying in June, set about producing a B12 vitamin vape that would be free of nicotine, chemicals and chemical flavorings and provide a pleasant, aromatherapy-type experience.
“To this day nobody knows what’s in a vape, what’s in these formulas inside the vape,” says Al Madani. “We know that there’s a lot of sugar, and a lot of calories go in there because of the flavorings… and it goes directly to your bloodstream because you are breathing it. We realized that vape is not a solution to stop smoking, but it’s actually sexy cigarettes in disguise.”
It took the couple a year to engineer and create their prototype, with the vaping mixture produced in the US and the device in China and South Korea.
The final product looks like a cigarette and has an LED “BioVape” label. Each disposable Dh78 BioVape contains vegetable glycerin, vitamins, deionized water and organic fruit flavor extracts and delivers 100 puffs.
There is no passive smoking for bystanders and no impact on the environment, Al Madani promises. She’s so confident in the safety of the device, she would even let her young son have a puff.
“Of course,” she says. “When you smoke it, it doesn’t go directly to your lungs, it evaporates to the top of your mouth.”
While there are a range of B12 benefits backed by research, scientific evidence for vaping the vitamin is another story.
In 2018 Regan Bailey, a nutritional epidemiologist at Purdue University in Indiana, described the situation to the magazine Scientific American.
“These products might be completely safe, but they might not be,” said Bailey. “We know literally nothing about the safety or efficacy of inhaling vitamins.”
BioVape conducted its own informal testing on six participants, and Al Madani says all of them reported having more energy after replacing their energy drinks with the BioVape.
Under the slogan “lose the addiction, keep the habit”, the company is targeting smokers and the healthy set, too — although their product materials warn that BioVape devices are not smoking cessation products or dietary supplements, and have not been evaluated by the US Food and Drug Administration.
While there are other vitamin vapers on the market, BioVape appears to be the first UAE brand.
The couple is also working on a similar concept for shisha and has several other BioVape versions on the way: one for beauty, which delivers collagen; and another for sleep, which has melatonin and lavender. There are recipes for energy and recovery as well.
“It’s essentially enhanced air,” says Al Madani. “Basically, if you want to look like a badass and you want to look sexy and you want to smoke in front of people socially, at least make a choice that will save your lungs, save the environment and won’t harm anyone around you or beside you.”
Featured image courtesy BioVape.
Ann Marie McQueen
Ann Marie McQueen is the founding editor-in-chief of Livehealthy and host of The Livehealthy Podcast. She is a veteran Canadian digital journalist who has worked in North America and the Middle East. Her past roles include features editor for The National, trends writer and columnist for the Canadian newspaper chain Sun Media, and correspondent for CBC Radio.