AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Hospital officials shared very little about the person admitted to Augusta University Medical Center for the first ever lung related illness due to e-cigarettes. That person is in ICU, according to a hospital spokesperson.

The vaping related lung illness has become an epidemic. So, NewsChannel 6 wanted to know what is in the devices causing people major health issues or worse, death.

We sat down with Dr. Phillip Coule, Vice President and Chief Medical Officer. He said, “Those that are vaping need to know that vaping is not safe and this could happen to any one of them tomorrow.”

The nationwide vaping epidemic has hit home. AU’s top doctor wants to let people know the crisis is serious, even in the CSRA.

“We don’t know exactly what is happening in these cases,” he said of the injuries. “Although a large number of them are associated with illicit or not manufactured products being vaped.”

Dr. Coule said the issue surrounds patients with unexplained respiratory or lung failure. Hundreds of cases have popped up across the country that health experts believe are due to vape pens filled with THC, CBD oils or some other chemical. He added the one incident locally is just the tip of the iceberg.

“It took decades and decades of smoking for us to realize that we had a lot of older people carrying around oxygen tanks [and] that they were doing damage to their lungs over an extended period of time,” Dr. Colue said. “My concern is we have people thinking that this is safe and we’re not going to know that true effect of this in terms of the damage occurring to people’s lungs for years.”

NewsChannel 6 also sat down with a Georgia Cancer Center Community Outreach Coordinator who said one e-cigarette cartridge has the same amount of nicotine as 20 cigarettes.

“We do know that e-cigarettes contain cancer causing chemical; formaldehyde, cadmium,” said Christine O’Meara, Georgia Cancer Center Community Outreach Coordinator.

O’Meara said even though people have been vaping for years now, we could be seeing more health issues and death due to modern day popularity.

She added, “Increased use, increased marketing, increased access. Modifications in the types of e-cigarettes used with the pod system.”

Again, it is unknown what is inside of e-cigarettes causing people major illnesses and even death. The research is still on going. But, Augusta University does offer a cessation program program that will help ween people off conventional cigarettes, chewing tobacco as well as e cigarettes, if you choose to stop.

Photojournalist: Gary Hipps