Confessions of an Oxygen Fiend: 'I Can't Put Down the Can'

Once you start breathing, it's hard to stop.

In the olden days of futuristic science fiction, paranoid authors were forever forecasting a far-off time when air would become so precious that entrepreneurs would sell oxygen in cans. That day has come. For the past few weeks, I have been hoarding a three-canister supply of supplemental oxygen. The air has been captured and packaged by a company called Oxygen Plus, Inc.

The canisters retail for $11.99 each, or $34.99 for a three-pack. Buying three canisters at a time saves you 98 cents. You could argue that’s not much of a bargain. You might want to save your breath instead, especially if—like me—you’re attempting to stretch out your supplemental-oxygen supply to meet the truly breathtaking exigencies that pop up with the regularity of unwanted thoughts in this funhouse obstacle course we call day-to-day life

A pair of Chicago-born, Minnesota-dwelling sisters founded Oxygen Plus. The company is marketing a range of aerosol canisters sold as “recreational oxygen products.” Each 8-inch-tall canister contains 50 two-second blasts of 95-percent pure oxygen.

Although its products contain zero THC, CBD, or any other cannabinoid, Oxygen Plus has shifted its wares into the cannabis market, targeting marijuana smokers with the O-puff, a ““sleek, portable, easy to use, and completely consumer friendly wellness product designed for health-conscious cannabis enthusiasts.”

On the surface, what makes an O-puff oxygen canister different from an ordinary Oxygen Plus oxygen canister is the word cannabis is printed on the O-puff canister, at the bottom, in the phrase DOES NOT CONTAIN CANNABIS.

The O-puff site offers a deeper explanation:

Inhaling a few hits of O-puff helps top off your energy level and increase focus and mental clarity—especially after a big puff.

As I attempt to write these sentences, a coworker ten feet from me is playing Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi’s debut music video, "Yung Mommy," at full volume—on a TV. If ever I needed a supplement to increase my focus and mental clarity, it is now. I am going to sample a dose of O-puff this very instant.

The protective plastic wrapper peals easily off the canister cap. The cap pops off no problem. As directed, I’ve positioned the canister opening near my mouth and nose.

Here goes.

I think I just took three hits of 95 percent oxygen. I’m not sure. Due to wearing ear buds in an effort to drown out Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, whose music has so fascinated my colleague, I missed any audible hiss of oxygen being released. But my focus has surely increased, if only because I am seeking mental clarity on whether or not any air came out of the canister. If so, what effect is that oxygenated air having on me?

Whenever I visit someone in the hospital, and the patient has that double-pronged, clear plastic air hose attached at the nostrils, force feeding pure oxygen into the stricken person’s shallow stream of breath, I can’t help but think that invigorating current of pure air would be put to better use in the lungs of someone vital, on his feet, someone like me, moving throughout the world, communing with thought leaders and cultural influencers. But right now, with the Oxygen Plus O-puff presumably coursing through my bronchi, I feel no more invigorated than that non-responsive lump in the hospital bed.

“How’s it going?” asks an amused coworker.

“So I’m sitting here,” I complain, “and I’ve already squandered about two bucks’ worth of this canned atmosphere, and I can’t even tell if I’ve gotten off at all.”

“I think you need help.”

My coworker patiently shows me how to operate the O-puff canister’s release nozzle. I was doing it wrong. When the cap is pressed correctly, a very noticeable sound of pressurized air escapes. So, if you are keeping score, any oxygen-primed clarity and focus exhibited up until this moment was an illusion, part of what might be called a placebo effect.

Now that I am an expert in employing the delivery device, hang on here with Snooki, and I’ll inhale more oxygen.

I’m back, and feeling fresh from that eight-puff interruption. The temptation, irresistible it turns out, is to suck in like on a hit of weed while the oxygen is hissing out from the O-puff nozzle. Once the air is inhaled, the natural inclination is to hold your breath and let the oxygen atoms get to work invading your bloodstream. This is a foolish automatic reaction, and I would advise against succumbing to it, except that it’s what I did.

This oxygen may really be kicking in: I just noticed something I hadn’t seen prior to squirting the air into my face! One of the three O-puff canisters on my desk is unlike the other two. One of the three canisters incorporates a marijuana leaf as a design element. Does that mean this is an old can? Also, the oddball canister emblazoned with the weed-leaf motif is missing the phrase DOES NOT CONTAIN CANNABIS at the bottom of the label.

The O-puff site clearly states: “No…this product does not contain cannabis or any cannabinoid derivatives…you little stoner.”

Maybe the leaf-labeled can is from a prototype. Am I inhaling stale air, no better than the re-circulated atmosphere on a commercial jetliner?

Though I may be an imperfect target consumer for this product, I want to fairly and impartially give O-puff every opportunity to deliver on its sales promises.

Here is what the O-puff sales materials lead the good-faith consumer to expect:

• Expand your mind

• Enhance your high

• Recover from a big puff

• Restore depleted energy levels

• Relax and unwind

• Increase focus and mental clarity

Bear with me. Once you get started, it’s hard to stop breathing. I just sucked down an entire can. I must have been building up a tolerance. I’ve barely started using the stuff, and already I have an $11.99-a-day habit.

But that O-puff spend might be worth every penny!

After inhaling, I do feel all those benefits! My mind is expanded and my high is enhanced! I am recovered, restored, and relaxed in a state of increased focus and mental clarity!

Then again, Snooki has recently been turned off.