By Maggy Villarreal
Dozens of vape shops have mushroomed along the streets of Lubbock in recent years, signifying the increasing popularity of e-cigarette use.
Almost 13 percent of all adults and more than 20 percent of young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 had tried e-cigarettes at least once in 2014, shows a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC. The agency estimated 3 percent of all adults and 5 percent of young adults were regular users at the time.
But by 2015, the numbers had risen. About 10 percent of adults in the United States vape or use e-cigarettes, but 75 percent of them continue to smoke traditional cigarettes as well, according to a Reuters poll.
Vaping allows smokers to get a nicotine fix through water vapor in an e-cigarette, without the harsh effects of tobacco smoke. Once branded as a healthier alternative, vaping mixtures are, in fact, not harmless due to the poisonous chemicals they often contain, says the American Lung Association.
Elijah Neel, a vape specialist at Electric Cloud Vapors, said smoking e-cigarettes may not have the same risks as traditional cigarettes, but still requires caution.
“Nicotine does not do a crucial amount of damage,” Neel said. “The only thing about cigarettes is that they have tobacco and tons of other chemicals in them, which causes the buildup of tar in your lungs.”
Zach Poe, a vape specialist at 180 vape, said vaping is safer because the mixture has two main compounds instead of the thousands of chemicals in cigarettes.
“There is no lighter; you are not burning with butane to start it at all,” Poe said. “It is just a consistent low normal regulated heat that burns the vapor.”
Users can determine the amount of nicotine they inhale, Poe added, with the possibility of consuming as much nicotine as in a pack of cigarettes.
C.J. Mroczkowski recalled a time when he couldn’t go an hour without having a cigarette. He said vaping saved his life .
“I figured my life was short enough, so why make it shorter and smoke cigarettes?” Mroczkowski said. “I am now living the vaping lifestyle. I get excited about getting new flavors instead of getting excited about cigarette flavors.”
Vaping can not only prolong longtime smokers’ lives, but also help smoking-world rookies avoid cigarettes.
Kasandra Hernandez smoked cigarettes for two months before she first tried vaping.
“I did try smoking again after I started to vape, and it was the most disgusting taste I ever had in my mouth,” Hernandez said. “I said no more menthol for me.”
Though vaping may save some smokers’ lives, Jana Garner, a registered nurse in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at the University Medical Center, said vaping can do more damage than smoking. The vapor has just as many chemicals in it as cigarettes, even when there is no nicotine.
“Some can say that it contains no nicotine, but it actually still contains a large amount of chemicals in it,” Gardner said. “One of the most dangerous chemicals in it is the same substance that causes what they call the ‘popcorn lung.’
She added that the chronic use of e-cigarettes has serious health risks because some vapor mixtures have more chemicals than actual cigarettes. E-cigarettes can also increase the chance of asthma and methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection, or MRSA, in younger users.
The vapor chemicals may be the least of some users’ worries. Darla Shaw, a registered nurse at Covenant Health System, said e-cigarettes’ battery can be especially dangerous. She has seen many patients with burns to their lips and faces, as well as inhaling burns, due to explosions of the lithium batteries inside e-cigarettes
“It is the same battery that is in the electric mini scooter skateboard,” she said. “There is a problem with the manufacturing of that battery.”
Neel said the vaping industry acknowledges the inherent risks.
“I would like to say that vaping would save your life 100%, but there are still risks, along with everything,” he said. “Even drinking water can be risky sometimes. You can get lead poisoning. But vaping is for sure 95% better for you.”