A teenager whose double lung transplant — the result of extensive vaping-related damage — drew headlines around the world is now speaking out about the issue and warning other young people that they, too, are “not invincible”.
Daniel Ament, a 17-year-old from Michigan, received the double lung transplant in mid-October of last year as a life-saving surgery, after doctors described his lung damage as the worst they had ever seen.
“We were against a wall,” Dr Hassan Nemeh, surgeon at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, told Time Magazine. “We had to transplant him or pull support. I truly don’t think he had a lot of time left.”
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The teen had developed a vaping habit which eventually left his lungs “so scarred they didn’t even deflate” as surgeons removed them from his body, the doctor said.
He added: “It was definitely a different kind of damage than we usually see. This lung was literally solid, as if it was made out of truck-tire rubber.”
The 17-year-old told the magazine he was now working to create a nonprofit that would inform schools and educators with advice on how to help young people quit vaping. The non-profit, called Fight4Weelness, would also reportedly provide Mr Ament a platform to share his story.
He told Time that he wants other teens to understand that they are “not invincible” and “any plans they have for the future, any sports they play, anything they’re really passionate about, it’ll all be way harder to do if this happens to them.”
Mr Ament added: “What’s the point of getting that small buzz [from vaping]?”
Donald Trump’s administration announced a ban on all flavoured e-cigarettes in early January, targeting products that experts have said enticed young people to begin vaping.
In announcing the ban, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement: “The United States has never seen an epidemic of substance use arise as quickly as our current epidemic of youth use of e-cigarettes.”
The president celebrated the move on New Year’s Even, saying in a statement: “We’re going to protect our families, we’re going to protect our children, and we’re going to protect the industry.”
“People have died from this”, he added.
In total there have been over 2,700 confirmed cases of lung injuries associated with e-cigarette use and vaping, according to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as at least 60 deaths.
Reports indicated at least one out of every four high school students were using flavoured e-cigarettes, though Mr Ament said those numbers were underreported.
“It would be more rare to find someone who doesn’t vape,” he said. “Everyone was doing it and nothing bad was happening.”