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A breath of fresh air

Tanking up at the Oasis oxygen bar in Bern swissinfo.ch

Switzerland's first dedicated oxygen bar has opened in the capital, Bern, offering relaxation and an almost pure whiff of O2.

This content was published on January 13, 2005 - 15:44

Target customers are stressed office workers who need to put their feet up at lunch time for a bit of power napping and oxygen inhaling.

Owner Beatrice Pauli practises aromatherapy, and developed a successful line of room sprays before setting up the O2 Oasis Bar.

Inspired by oxygen bars in Frankfurt, Milan and Florida, she decided to import the idea to Switzerland.

"It lessens the effects of headaches and jetlag, and generally relaxes the body," Pauli told swissinfo.

Menu card

The O2 Oasis bar is a rather inconspicuous little room tucked away beside a flower shop.

Welcoming reclining chairs surrounded by Florida ferns wait to receive their guests. Pauli's own, bright, abstract paintings adorn the walls; scented candles and quietly tinkling music contribute to the relaxed atmosphere.

Visitors get to pick the scents they wish to inhale from a bistro type menu card, with Zen, Chillin', Death by Chocolate and Hazelnut Coffee topping the list.

After you've settled down on the recliner, the O2 is pumped through the scent of your choice through a plastic tube inserted into the nostrils.

A concentrator filters the air in the room to remove nitrogen and other gases, and then delivers the 92 per cent pure oxygen through the tube at a continuous rate.

There's nothing to stop you switching from one scent to another - the delivery station acts as a kind of jukebox, with selection by
buttons. Each minute costs a franc.

Healthy or hazardous?

Pauli is convinced that inhaling O2 reduces stress and increases energy and alertness.

Thomas Geiser, a lung specialist at the University Hospital in Bern, accepts that the relaxed atmosphere of the oxygen bar could induce a state of psychological wellbeing.

But he told swissinfo that inhaling O2 is unlikely to have any physical effect at all on a person with healthy lungs.

And he believes it could present a danger to people with breathing disorders.

"By breathing oxygen through liquid, the user could be inhaling impurities, which could damage the lungs or cause an allergic reaction," he warned.

Pauli insists that anyone with a breathing disorder should only inhale oxygen under medical supervision.

And she maintains the risk of infection is slight: "The aromas, made from food colouring, are heavily diluted and unlikely to cause any harm."

Medication

Oxygen is a prescribed medication in Switzerland, but oxygen bars do not require a licence from the Federal Health Office.

Pauli says this is because the oxygen is being used for non-medical
purposes.

Whatever the health benefits of puffing oxygen, visiting the Oasis Bar is certainly a pleasant experience.

One customer swissinfo spoke to said the experience was both relaxing and invigorating.

The eventual aim is for the bar to double up as a gallery, displaying the work of various local artists.

swissinfo, Julie Hunt

Key facts

How clean is the Swiss air?:
A lot cleaner than ten years ago, thanks to tight restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions.
But the government says levels of nitrogen dioxide are 50% above "acceptable" levels in urban areas.
Ozone levels are often hazardous, especially in summer.
The oxygen level remains stable at 21%.

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