A vape-addicted teen claims his habit has damaged his lungs and caused them to collapse four times.
Draven Hatfield, of Harts, West Virginia, began vaping when he was just 13 because he thought it was a ‘neat trend’.
Now 19, he said he initially vaped only on the weekends before his habit progressed to ‘every day, all the time’.
It wasn’t until the construction worker was rushed to hospital with a collapsed lung four times in four months that he linked his health scares to vaping. Hospital doctors were ‘positive’ that the damage was caused by vaping and said his lungs looked like he’d ‘three packs of cigarettes a day for at least 30 years’, which Mr Hatfield said left him ‘very scared’.
Mr Hatfield began vaping box mods — larger vapes which have more power and flavour than regular vapes — before switching to disposable e-cigs three years later. He said: ‘I started vaping because it was just a neat trend and I was young and I picked up on it. ‘When I first started, I’d usually only vape on the weekends and eventually I was vaping every day all the time.
‘At least once a day I was refilling it, sometimes once every two days. I moved onto the disposable vapes and probably used one disposable every two to three days.
‘I didn’t smoke before I started vaping. During one period I smoked while vaping for probably around a month and a half, and then I quit.’
In October 2021, aged 17, Mr Hatfield rushed to hospital after suddenly suffering severe chest pain and cramps down his left side. He said: ‘I had no idea what it was or what happened, I thought I’d maybe pulled something wrong.’ Doctors told him he had spontaneous pneumothorax — the sudden onset a collapsed lung.
It is triggered by a collection of air between the lung and its outer surface — called a bleb — which ruptures and causes air to leak into the space around the lung. Symptoms include sharp chest pain that is made worse by a deep breath or cough, a rapid heart rate and fatigue. In most cases, the cause of a collapsed lung is unknown. But smoking increases the risk and experts believe vaping may, too.
The habits increase the risk of blebs — which are not a problem on their own — bursting, leading to a collapsed lung.
Mr Hatfield spent the next week in hospital connected to a chest tube, which is inserted between the ribs to allow the lung to re-expand fully. But the following week, his left lung collapsed for a second time. Two months later, in December 2021, his right lung collapsed.
On this occasion, he was ‘in the middle of hitting a vape’ when he felt his lung collapse — at which point he connected his health problems to vapes and decided to quit.
Mr Hatfield said: ‘I just felt a little pop and, as I’d been through it, I knew what it was. ‘I was breathing differently and then every time I swallowed, I had a little pinch in my side.’
He added: ‘I realised it was the vapes and I talked to the specialist and that’s when I decided to try and quit vaping.’
But his health woes continued, and his lung collapsed for a fourth time in February 2022, while he was at school.
Mr Hatfield said: ‘On the way to the hospital everything was looking good and when I got there, they had to do surgery on me.’
Doctors had to perform a bullectomy — surgery to remove air pockets from his right lung. ‘It involved attaching the wall of my ribs, there’s a chemical process of attaching, they scrape the air bubbles off my lungs,’ he added.
Mr Hatfield has since recovered from the ‘scary’ ordeal, though he still suffers from chest pain, and is now keen to raise awareness of the hazards of vaping.
He said: ‘It made me realise how dangerous vaping can be. ‘The specialist said that it developed air bubbles on my lungs and they’d burst and would leak air and that would cause my lung to collapse.’
He added: ‘The doctor said that my lungs looked like I’d smoked three packs of cigarettes a day for at least 30 years.
‘I was pretty upset. I thought vaping was better than smoking and I was worried about my future. I was very scared.’ Mr Hatfield said he still feels pain ‘pretty bad’, has been left with scars and worries that his lung will collapse again.
He said: ‘I’ll never touch a vape or smoke again. I’m very positive that vaping has done the damage, my specialist and lung doctor were also positive on that.
‘To quit vaping, I used nicotine gum and tricked my mind, I used it and lowered the mg and eventually chewed regular gum. ‘I don’t think a lot of young people are aware that vaping can be this serious. I’d like more to be aware that there’s implications for vaping.’
It comes after MailOnline exposed the predatory marketing tactics of vape retailers accused of preying on children, with their pervasive schemes so successful that officials are now proposing an outright ban.
Experts have warned that the nation is ‘sleepwalking into an existential crisis for children’.
Shock NHS data shows almost one in ten secondary pupils in England are regular vapers, double the proportion in 2014. And as many as 30 per cent of under-18s in some region have used the devices, according to statistics.
Meanwhile, one in 10 middle and high school students in the US use vapes. As well as the child-friendly flavours and colours, experts have also blamed social media for glamourising the devices in recent years. TikTok and Instagram are also awash with individuals offering to sell the gadgets to children.