HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - State health officials confirmed Wednesday that an East Alabama man has died due to a vaping related illness. There have been 17 vaping related deaths across the nation as of October 2, including one in Alabama.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 800 cases of lung injury or vaping related illness have been reported in 46 states with 19 cases under investigation in Alabama.
Eco Smoke general manager Vic Vergara says his store was the first brick and mortar vape store to open in Alabama, back in 2011.
"We've been here through the vast maturity of the industry, and the boom as you could say," says Vic Vergara, Eco Smoke General Manager.
Vergara says they started their shop to offer consumers a way to stop smoking.
"We know the rampant cases of emphysema and lung cancer that's often been prevalent with smokers," says Vergara.
He says they never tried to claim that vaping was healthier than smoking... just a smarter alternative.
"We don't even necessarily want you to have to create another habit. We would like for you, if you want to, to step down and get off of nicotine all together," says Vergara.
According to the CDC, people with medical issues linked to vaping have also reported a history of using e-cigarette products containing THC. Those products are illegal in Alabama. Even still, it's still giving vape shops a bad reputation.
"A lot of it is buying vape pods or even e liquids off the black market or its adding stuff to the liquids that are illicit or shouldn't be added," said Vergara.
Vape shops are standing by their products.
"Of course, we have had a flood of clients coming in asking questions and our only thing is like, as long as you go to a reputable dealer, you buy reputable liquid," said Vergara.
Vergara said he believes vape shops are not the problem and most owners are even in favor of proper regulations.
"We have always been a company that wants there to be some regulation on the stuff that we use. We don't want to think that this e-liquid came batch made in a bathtub. We want it to go through the proper channels," said Vergara.
While the CDC investigates the exact cause of the deaths, it recommends refraining from using e-cigarette products, particularly those containing THC.