Oxygen for sale? And it isn’t a television network we’re taking about! What if we told you that good old O2 has hit retail shelves? What if you could step into a supermarket and just buy some air if the smoke from bonfires on Holi or Lohri were bothering you? For a reality that sounds bizarre, read on!
Make way bottled water, here comes canned air! No need to shudder, we are not talking of the oxygen cylinders that doctors hook on to patients with breathing problems. What we’re talking about is the little cans of pure oxygen that you can inhale for a few seconds for, as the manufacturers claim "An instant kick”. These have started appearing on supermarket shelves. In Japan, you can buy a 3.5-litre can of “O2 Supli” for 600 yens ($5) at any of the Seven-Eleven stores. In the US, canned air brands like Big Ox and OGO are slowly but steadily gaining popularity. And – hold your breath – you can choose from an array of exotic flavors such as mint, cherry, grapefruit and eucalyptus!
Before you sigh in despair at a world that makes a commodity out of air, consider this, the bottled water industry rakes in $10.8 billion annually, in the US alone (Source: The International Bottled Water Association). When water can do such good business, why shouldn’t air? Though canned air is a recent phenomenon, the trend started in the 1990s when night clubs in the US began to offer oxygen bars where customers could inhale fresh oxygen through a tube – for a fee, of course.
What is it that makes the sale of air – a freely available natural commodity – a sensible business idea? The atmosphere contains 21 per cent oxygen – a figure that could well change due to the high pollution levels. In contrast, the oxygen content in canned air is 80 to 95 per cent. Manufacturers and advocates of the product claim that a whiff of this almost-pure oxygen can cleanse your system, lift your spirits and give you that much-needed energy boost at the end (or beginning!) of a long, stressful day.
However, the benefits have not been clinically proved. Sceptics believe that the perceived “high” after inhaling canned air is nothing but a placebo effect. In fact, some medical experts believe that inhaling concentrated oxygen could be dangerous for individuals suffering from asthma, emphysema and heart problems (Source: American College of Chest Physicians and National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute). Besides, a can of oxygen could transform itself into a veritable bombshell when exposed to fire or cigarettes.
So, what do you think? Would you pay through your nose for a breath of fresh air? What’s next? Will we have to pay taxes to breathe air in public places? Where do you think all of this is headed?