An oxygen bar is a facility which offers concentrated oxygen for inhalation. A number of claims are made about oxygen bars, which may tout themselves as offering a healthy and beneficial service. Oxygen in high concentrations certainly has recreational effects, but it appears to have no known health benefits and may even be dangerous. Urban areas may have an assortment of oxygen bars, typically listed in the phone book or through entertainment newspapers and websites.
The concept of the oxygen bar was pioneered in Japan in the late 1990s, and it quickly spread to the Western United States. Some oxygen bars are found in spas, as a supplement to spa services. Others are found in lounges and other recreational businesses, and consumers may also stumble upon an oxygen bar inside a regular bar. In some countries, recreational oxygen is also available in cans at some stores.
Oxygen itself is certainly vital for human life, and most people are accustomed to inhaling oxygen in concentrations of around 21%, representing the ambient concentration of oxygen in the air. When oxygen intake drops, people can experience severe health problems and ultimate death. Medical professionals may offer oxygen therapy to people who have low oxygen saturation in their blood, and some people use supplemental oxygen at home as a prescription medication. Recreationally, oxygen can provide a feeling of euphoria.
At an oxygen bar, guests pay a set per-minute fee to inhale oxygen through a nasal cannula. Once the cannula is inserted, the oxygen source is turned on, and the patron will supposedly feel simultaneously energized and peaceful. Most oxygen bars are cautious about making health claims, because they do not want to run afoul of government regulation. In some oxygen bars, flavored oxygen mixed with various aromas is offered, to make the experience more interesting or for aromatherapeutic value.
In the United States, oxygen is actually a prescription drug, so oxygen bars technically violate Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations. The FDA leaves prosecution of oxygen bars to the discretion of the individual states, although it has expressed some concern about the trend. People with certain health conditions such as asthma, for example, should not intake an abnormally high concentration of oxygen, as they may stop breathing.
In addition, many of the substances such as oils used to flavor oxygen at oxygen bars are potential sources of lung infection. The FDA also cautions consumers to be cautious about the condition of the equipment used, as unclean filters and reused cannulas can be dangerous. Finally, the quality of the oxygen used is questionable, and potentially contaminated with airborne particulates and other unhealthy substances. FDA representatives have also pointed out that humans evolved in a 21% oxygen environment, and that it is perhaps better to keep it that way.
Proponents of the oxygen bar believe that oxygen may provide tangible health benefits, although scientific study has not supported this view. At worst, supporters argue that visiting an oxygen bar is a novel and harmless pursuit, when the facility is professionally maintained.