Electronic cigarettes gaining popularity in South Florida

Estimated 3.5 million Americans enjoy 'vaping'

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. - The dangers of smoking are well known, which include lung cancer and chronic diseases like emphysema.

Still, many enjoy the habit and others struggle to quit, all the while suffering the consequences.

"Every day I would wake up, I would be out of breath," said Roger Izaguirre. "I didn't have any energy."

When conventional smoking cessation methods failed him, Izaguirre turned to an electronic cigarette device made by South Florida-based Vapor Shark.

"I had a friend who was telling me 'Try this,'" said Izaguirre. "I was like, 'I don't know man. What's this vapor stuff? It's not cigarettes.'"

Vaping, as it's called, can be done with a gadget that resembles a cigarette or devices that look like large metal pens.

Flavoring and nicotine are added to a base primarily made up of propylene glycol and glycerin.

A lithium battery in the device heats the liquid, turning it to vapor.

"Once you get used to this, you like this better than cigarettes," said Oscar Rodriguez, Director of Business Development at Vapor Shark. "You don't smell, it doesn't stain your teeth, it doesn't stick to your clothes."

Some people turn to vaping as an alternative to smoking. Others use it to quit the habit altogether, but experts said there are still questions about the safety of e-cigarettes.

"They're certainly interesting devices and we need to know more, but we don't know enough yet," said Dr. Mark Block, Chief Of Thoracic Surgery with Memorial Healthcare.

The Food and Drug Administration has tried, so far unsuccessfully, to regulate e-cigarettes.

In a recent advisory, the FDA stated that the 'mist' from the devices could be harmful to the health of the users and those around them.

"The problem is the FDA has done a number of studies and they have found that the vapor does contain some cancer causing chemicals, and they have found some toxins in them," said Block.

Leading manufacturers like Vapor Shark welcome greater regulation and oversight.

"There are a lot of people out there just making this stuff on their own and selling it. Consumers need to know what they're getting," said Rodriguez.

Izaguirre said he doesn't need the reassurances of a government agency.

"I did my research.  This is a quality product," Izaguirre said.

Since he started vaping, Izaguirre said he no longer suffers from the many side effects of smoking,

"Gong up the stairs I don't get out of breath. Running with my kids, I just feel 100 times better," he said.

There are hundreds of vaping flavors and they can be concocted without nicotine. A single vial of liquid costs around $20 and is equivalent to 20 packs of cigarettes.

"That alone motivates many. That can easily save you $2,000 to $3,000 a year," said Rodriguez.

The FDA continues to move forward to regulate e-cigarettes.

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