EXCLUSIVE: Florida vape addict, 19, smokes a hole in his LUNG after getting hooked on e-cigarettes in high school
A Florida vape addict smoked a hole in his lung after becoming addicted to e-cigarettes in high school.
At the height of his use, Mason Middleton, 19, of Fort Myers, was so addicted that he was vaping every few minutes and using as many as four pods a week.
But earlier this year he was suddenly struck by sharp pain in his chest, leaving him in so much pain that he could barely stand.
In August, doctors diagnosed him with a collapsed left lung. Mr Middleton, who is otherwise healthy and works in construction, said doctors could find “no other reason” for the collapsed lung other than vaping.
He told DailyMail.com: ‘I’m quitting vaping. I never listened to anyone when they told me vaping will confuse you, but it probably does. Don’t go through what I went through, it was extremely painful.’
Mason Middleton, 19, of Fort Myers, Florida (pictured above in the hospital) suffered a collapse of his left lung after becoming addicted to vaping. He used three to four devices a week, he was so addicted
Doctors say it is rare for lung collapse to occur in a young adult who does not also have an underlying condition. They say this already makes the lung more susceptible to injury, with the vapor then causing inflammation and increasing the risk of collapse
Vapes have skyrocketed in popularity in the US, with an estimated 8.1 million Americans – including 3 million middle and high school students – now puffing on them every week.
But studies now suggest the devices may be no better for the lungs than traditional cigarettes, the thing they market to help people quit, because vapes also contain toxic chemicals.
Most vapors are manufactured in China but have been flowing into the US for years, with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) struggling to regulate the market.
The FDA has restricted fruity flavors in reusable vapes to make them less attractive to young people, but has yet to implement the same rules for disposable vapes – unlike other countries such as the UK.
Mr Middleton said he became ‘very, very addicted’ to vaping after he started puffing from the age of 15.
“I got them because I happened to know someone who knew someone who knew someone at school so I could get them,” he said.
‘When I was younger, my mum and dad caught me, grounded me and told me not to do it. But I ignored them and went ahead and did it anyway.
‘I was addicted, very addicted, very addicted.
‘I used my vapes every day. How often I did that depended on what I was doing. If I was at work I wouldn’t suck it much, but if I was in bed, for example, I would suck it every three to five minutes.”
The vapes he used most often were HQD vapes – a Chinese-made product manufactured by Shenzhen Hanqingda Technology, based in Shenzhen, China. His favorite flavors were blue raspberry, blueberry lemonade, black ice cream and apple peach.
The legal limit in Florida to smoke and buy vapes is 21 years old, but many young people are able to get around the ban thanks to unscrupulous sellers and friends who buy the devices for them.
Mr Middleton said he was on his way home from his grandfather – who lived five minutes away – when he said he suddenly felt a sharp pain in the left side of his chest.
“The throbbing pain came in waves,” he said.
‘By the time I got home I was in massive pain, I could barely walk, it hurt so bad, so I went in and lay down.’
He tried treating the pain with ibuprofen and went to work the next day, but within hours asked his manager if he could leave to go to the hospital.
X-rays taken at the hospital showed he suffered a collapsed lung – medically called a spontaneous pneumothorax.
This is where a hole has developed in the lung that allows air to flow into the vacuum – or the empty space without air – between the lung wall and the chest wall.
This prevents the lung from inflating and deflating properly, causing patients to struggle to breathe, with stabbing chest pain and a rapid heart rate.
The condition is rarely fatal, but doctors say it must be treated quickly to prevent the hole from getting worse or oxygen levels in the blood from dropping, which can damage internal organs.
It is treated by inserting a tube into the chest to suck air from the vacuum, which restores the vacuum and gives the lung enough time to heal the hole and restore normal breathing without the aid of a machine.
Mr Middleton said the vape he used most often was HQD, made by Chinese company Shenzhen Hanqingda Technology Co, based in Shenzhen, China. His favorite flavors included blue raspberry, blueberry lemonade, black ice cream and apple peach
Mr Middleton had x-rays taken at hospital which showed he was suffering from a spontaneous pneumothorax, the medical term for lung collapse. He said doctors could find no reason for it other than vaping
Mr Middleton said doctors were ’90 per cent certain’ the collapse may have been caused by vaping, adding: ‘They could find no other reason why I had a collapsed lung.’
Dr. Panagis Galiatsatos, an intensive care physician at Johns Hopkins University, told DailyMail.com that it was possible that vaping could cause a collapsed lung.
But, he added, this was unlikely in a healthy patient – and would likely only happen in people with an underlying condition that weakened the lungs, such as asthma or Marfan syndrome, a genetic condition that weakens the connective tissue in the lungs.
“You need a disposition to make this happen,” he said. “It’s not impossible without aptitude, it’s just something that’s unlikely.”
When someone with an underlying condition smokes or vapes, it causes inflammation in the lungs, weakening them further – and increasing the risk of a hole in the lung wall causing them to collapse.
Dr. Galiatsatos added: “Inflammation will compromise the lungs.
“When you vape over and over again, you cause the walls of the lungs to lose their integrity, become more pliable, and in the right situation that results in a rupture.”
Dr. Galiatsatos, who is also a spokesman for the American Lung Association, said he has so far seen two young patients with underlying conditions who vape suffer from collapsed lungs.
He has seen many more smokers with the condition, but said this was likely because smokers tended to be older – with older adults at greater risk of lung collapse.
Less than ten percent of Americans have conditions that put them at greater risk of lung collapse if they start vaping or smoking.
Mr. Middleton has no underlying conditions that could cause a collapsed lung.
Before the treatment, Mr Middleton had a tube inserted into his chest to suck air from the space between his lungs and chest wall.
By removing air from this area, the vacuum was restored, stopping the lungs from collapsing and giving them time to repair the hole.
The teenager was kept in the hospital for three days while doctors gradually reduced the amount of air sucked from the cavity.
When they turned off the machine on day three and his lungs didn’t collapse, they removed the tube and let him go.
He has now sworn off vapes – after going home and throwing out all the devices in his truck and home.
Mr Middleton is pictured above in hospital. Doctors placed a tube in his chest to suck air from the space between his lungs and the chest wall
He revealed his diagnosis while in hospital (pictured) and uploaded video updates about his experience on social media
Mr Middleton has also quit cold turkey, using nicotine patches for the first week and now relying on sweets when he feels like it.
“There are two kinds of desires you have to deal with,” he said.
‘There’s one where you crave nicotine, but that goes away within the first four to five days.
“But the other is that… you long for the hand motion of bringing it to your mouth or having (the vapor) in your pocket or holding it in the morning, or when you get home.”
When asked how difficult it was to quit vaping, he said: “Last week I haven’t really had any big cravings, but the last few weeks I have had a lot of cravings.
‘After dinner is a big one, because I always puffed right after, and I also get irritated a lot more easily (by things at work).
‘Normally, I would be fine if someone I asked to do something didn’t do it. But now I’m getting irritated.’
Mr Middleton has opened up about his struggles with vaping and health fears in social media posts and has started a campaign called #freethelungs, encouraging others to stop vaping to protect their health.
DailyMail.com contacted Shenzhen Hanqingda Technology Co, based in Shenzhen, China, for comment but did not receive a response.