PERMIAN BASIN-Oxford Dictionaries editors announced "vape" as their pick for 2014 International Word of the Year.
The term, both a verb and a noun, refers to an electronic cigarette or the act of inhaling and exhaling the vapor produced by such a device.
The 1.5 billion dollar "vaping" industry began with the invention of e-cigarettes in China in 2003.
Vape shops, vape pens and vaporiums are now available worldwide.
Vape Shack, which opened in August 2013 and claims to be the first e-cigarette store in Odessa, attracts an estimated 500 customers each week.
"It was actually going to be a shack in our front yard," said Melvin Herron, the owner of Vape Shack.
He and his wife started with two display cases in the waiting area of a day spa.
They now have their flagship store in Odessa, a second location in Midland and a growing Internet presence.
"It's crazy how big vaping has gotten around here," said Herron.
"When we started, I was ordering little bitty bottles [of e-cigarette fluid]. Now, I'm buying gallons."
Herron said he was inspired to start his vaping business after his own struggle with tobacco cigarettes.
He picked up the habit at age 11, smoked for 27 years and finally decided he had had enough when he "couldn't even pull on [his] boots without losing [his] breath."
"I tried Chantix, I tried the patch, I tried gum, I tried cold turkey [and] I tried sucking on a piece of candy while holding a pencil."
Herron said nothing worked until he picked up his first vape.
It felt like smoking a cigarette but allowed him to slowly decrease the amount of nicotine he inhaled.
Herron said he hasn't touched a cigarette in more than a year.
Manufacturers claim e-cigarette vapors contain no tar and little to no nicotine, but a pulmonary expert at Medical Center Hospital told NewsWest 9 vaping "is not risk-free."
"The e-cigarette has no FDA oversight, so the companies aren't disclosing everything that's inside of their products," explained Renato Galindo, a pulmonary patient educator who leads tobacco cessation classes at MCH.
"Some of them that have been tested, stating that they're nicotine free, have actually tested positive for nicotine."
He said he does not recommend vaping to patients struggling with nicotine addiction because there is "no evidence to suggest efficacy."
Galindo also said trading cigarettes for vaping is simply a way of "replacing one addiction with another."
"The goal is nicotine-free and behavior modification. You want to change your lifestyle. And if you're still keeping the same habits, while using a different product, it's easier to relapse."
Michael Miller, a regular at Vape Shack in Odessa, said vaping helped him break his two-pack-a-day habit and does not consider it a "new addiction."
"This is more of a hobby than a habit that I need to break," said Miller.
He said he "wasn't surprised" when he heard "vape" had been declared the 2014 International Word of the Year.
"This is great. Maybe it will let more people find out about vaping if they're trying to quit smoking."