Scientists show what vaping does to your lungs

File photo (Kurylo Sofiya /

Perhaps you witnessed it while driving: the telltale cloud of smoke, pouring out of another vehicle’s window.

Millions of Americans use electronic cigarettes and a study from the Annals of Internal Medicine estimated that more than half of them are younger than 35.

The devices were originally pitched as a safer alternative to cigarettes, perfect for people trying to kick the habit.

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Trouble followed in the form of a mysterious vaping related illness that has proved fatal for more than thirty people so far.

Ohio State University senior research scientist Marielle Brinkman said the lung injury outbreak frightened her team.

“We're seeing an outbreak of serious lung illness where people are not able to fight off things like viral infection because the immune system of the lung is being compromised,” Brinkman said.

Researchers said it’s the flavorings added to the bitter compound of nicotine that have been most troubling.

The flavorings are combined with a solvent to break the bitterness. Glycerol and propylene glycol are included in the mix.

Researcher Brinkman said the solvent elements are often found in over the counter medications, but not inhaled.

“You're taking chemicals that are generally regarded as safe for the gut and putting them into the lung and the lung is not equipped to take out the garbage as it were,” she said.

The result is a coating in the lungs that scientists said is an accumulation of fat globules or molecules and compromises the immunity system. It leads to a condition called lipoid pneumonia.

The CDC is tracking it and reports 100 percent of the people who have gotten sick are routine vapers.

Dr. Peter Shields, who is Deputy Director, Medical Oncology at The James Comprehensive Cancer Center and Solove Research Institute said people with lung illnesses experienced the symptoms quickly.

“We have people getting lung illnesses that are coming on really fast...which actually are probably not e-cigs but are people who are THC vaping," he said.

Shields said researchers are expanding the studies to include younger people which could help the government and medical providers learn who is getting lung illnesses and to find out how much harm kids are doing to their still-developing brains and bodies.