WACO, Texas (KWTX) - The white cloud of smoke from a vape has a warm, sweet aroma similar to a seasonal candle, but it’s not wax burning.
Instead, it’s the cocktail of nicotine infused liquid used in a “mod,” a third generation vaping device.
33-year-old Joshua Knight says he started vaping two and a half years ago when his son was born, and he’s particular about what he puts in his body.
“I’ve done a lot of my own research, and a lot of the pre-mixed juices have an ingredient in them that’s meant to clean the coil as you vape,” said Knight. “Problem is, is that’s terrible for your lungs.”
The bio-chemical major says he knows some vape juices can be harmful.
The juice he uses contains four ingredients, including pure nicotine, food-grade flavoring, vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol.
The last two ingredients are FDA approved for oil consumption, but experts say it is unclear if they are safe to inhale.
Baylor Scott and White Pulmonologist Dr. Carl Boethel is very concerned with the possible effects these two chemicals and other flavor additives that attract teens.
“These different additives are usually oil based, and when you inhale oil based products into your lungs, they don’t go away,” said Dr. Boethel. “They stay there, and the body cannot get rid of them. So, some of these patients that we’re seeing who wind up on ventilators have what is termed as lipoid pneumonia, which is where they have a large amount of oil within the lung tissue.”
The CDC recently identified Vitamin E Acetate as a possible cause in the deaths of 29 people and more than 2,000 others with lung injuries.
Officials say samples taken from patients showed in the victims who inhaled cannabis oil like THC or CBD.
Officials say many of them also got the substance from a friend or family member or off the street.
“The problem with these homemade devices and these other devices where people go to a store and they misstep, you don’t know what’s in that, and so it’s hard to know how safe this stuff really is," said Dr. Boethel. "There is no quality control. There’s no government regulation.”
Joshua says he started vaping 24 mg of nicotine. Now, he’s down to just six.
He agrees no addictive substance is good for you, but for him it’s an improvement from the two packs per day he smoked in the past.
“People seem to think that smokers and vapers don’t think about what they’re doing, but a lot of vapers are the intelligent people who are getting away from smoking,” said Knight.
Aside from the additives, compounds like acetone, ethanol and formaldehyde have been detected in vapes.
“The easiest way I can describe it is probably one of the worst things that’s happened to lung health in the last 20 years,” said Dr. Boethel.
Psychology major John James says he’s been vaping for nearly three years. He started as an alternative to smoking cigarettes.
“I buy from brands that I already know are good. I don’t go for the cheap stuff because that’s when they put all kinds of random fillers,” said James.
All agree, there needs to be more study about the chemicals, the length of drags and the amount of nicotine chronic users are exposed to.
“It’s going to be 10 years from now, and we’re gonna have a lot more people with chronic lung disease,” said Dr. Boethel.
Dr. Boethel wants users to just stop, and campuses like McLennan Community College, where these two are students, is sending that message as well.
“Starting the first of the year will be a complete ban on campus, so it would probably be a lot easier for me to quit instead of trying to sneak around,” said Knight. “I don’t know. I do enjoy it, but I don’t like the fact that I have a chemical addiction.”
Time will tell if their current philosophy will go up in smoke.