KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) – Vape shops are all over Kansas City. The owner of Waldo Vapes said vaping helped him quit smoking.
But doctors are increasingly questioning whether it's truly a safe alternative to cigarettes.
KCTV5 has seen several incidents nationwide where someone has developed an illness after using unregulated vape cartridges with THC and a vitamin E additive that can cause serious damage to lungs.
The death in Kansas was a 50-year-old man who had other underlying health issues and that he developed symptoms rapidly.
A toxicologist at the University of Kansas Health System says the medical industry is starting to study vaping products more closely.
The state is actually asking doctors to start documenting illnesses that arise from vaping.
“This confirms that we don't know a lot about vaping. People have a perception that this is better than smoking because it tastes better it doesn’t' smell as bad you're not releasing smoke with it, but there's additives in it, CBD, other chemicals that people don't know what the result is going to be when we smoke this long term,” Dr. Elizabeth Silver, a clinical toxicologist, said.
It might surprise you that the owner of the Waldo shop says he'd like to see more regulation in the industry and more studies of its long-term health effects.
When vape kits and e-cigarettes helped Jon Brower kick his smoking habit, he opened a business to do the same for others.
“I think for most folks it's going to be a better situation than smoking,” Brower said.
Now the industry has grown.
“Vape shops are pretty thick over the past five years,” Brower said.
So has the scrutiny and stories of possible dangers.
“As more studies come out, more places this is happening come out, there will be more clarity,” Brower said.
Following the first death associated with vaping in Kansas, as well as stories of hospitalizations from illegal, unregulated THC products, doctors warn that the smoking alternative might not be a safe one.
“Vaping is not necessarily safer than cigarettes,” Silver said.
Silver says when it comes to vaping, there's a lot that physicians just don't know yet.
“There's a lot we don't know when it comes to the regulation of vaping products when it comes to what people put in them,” Silver said.
Brower believes there's a difference between the products he sells in his shop and the ones that are making people sick.
“Black market products with no balances or safety checks to them,” Brower said.
That's why he actually supports better regulations and more research...to inform customers exactly which products may be harmful.
“Yeah, study it please. What are the possible concerns, effects,” Brower said.
Something else KU said was that they've had nine calls to poison control in the last two weeks related to small children accidentally ingesting a cartridge from a vape pen and getting sick from the nicotine.