A Florida vape addict smoked a hole in his lung after getting hooked on e-cigarettes in high school.
At the height of his use, Mason Middleton, 19, from Fort Myers, was so addicted he would vape every few minutes and go through as many as four pods a week.
But he was suddenly struck down by sharp pains in his chest earlier this year which left him in such agony 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 besides vaping.
He told DailyMail.com: ‘I am quitting vaping. I never listened to anyone when they told me that vaping will mess you up, but it will. Don’t go through what I went through, it was extremely painful.’
Mason Middleton, 19, from Fort Myers, Florida, (pictured above in hospital) suffered a collapse in his left lung after getting addicted to vapes. He would get through three to four devices a week he was so hooked
Doctors say that it is rare for a lung collapse to happen in a young adult who does not also have an underlying condition. They say this already predisposes the lung to injury, with the vape then causing inflammation and raising the risk of a collapse
Vapes have soared in popularity in the US with an estimated 8.1million Americans — including 3million middle and high schoolers — now puffing on them every week.
But studies now suggest the devices may not be any better for the lungs than traditional cigarettes, the thing they are marketed to help people quit, because vapes also contain toxic chemicals.
Most vapes are manufactured in China but have been flooding 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 appealing to youngsters, but is yet to bring in the same rules for disposable vapes — unlike in other countries like the UK.
Mr Middleton said he became ‘very, very addicted’ to vapes after starting to puff on them from the age of 15.
‘I was getting them because I happened to know somebody who knew somebody who knew somebody at school, so I could get them,’ he said.
‘When I was younger, my dad and mom caught me and 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, very.
‘I would use my vapes every day. How often I did depended on what I was doing. If I was working, I wouldn’t be sucking on it a lot, but, say, if I was laying in bed, I would be hitting it every three to five minutes.’
The vapes that he used most often were HQD vapes — a Chinese-made product manufactured by Shenzhen Hanqingda Technology, which is based in Shenzhen, China. His favorite flavors were blue raspberry, blueberry lemonade, black ice and apple peach flavors.
Florida’s legal limit to smoke and buy vapes is 21 years old, but many youngsters are able to get around the ban thanks to unscrupulous sellers and friends buying the devices for them.
Mr Middleton said he was returning home from his grandfather’s — 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 immense pain, I could barely walk it hurt so bad, so I went inside and lay down.’
He tried to treat 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 revealed he was suffering from a collapsed lung — medically termed a spontaneous pneumothorax.
This is where a hole has emerged in the lung that allows air to rush into the vacuum — or empty space with no air — between the lung wall and chest wall.
This stops the lung from inflating and deflating properly, leaving sufferers struggling to breathe, with stabbing chest pains and a rapid heart rate.
The condition is rarely fatal, but doctors say it needs to be treated quickly to avoid the hole getting any worse or a drop in oxygen levels in the blood that can damage internal organs.
It is treated by inserting a tube into the chest to suck air out of the vacuum, restoring it while giving 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 the most often was HQD, which is made by Chinese company Shenzhen Hanqingda Technology Co, based in Shenzhen, China. Among his favorite flavors were blue raspberry, blueberry lemonade, black ice and apple peach
Mr Middleton had X-rays taken at the hospital which revealed he was suffering from a spontaneous pneumothorax, the medical term for a lung collapse. He said doctors could not find any other reason for it besides vapes
Mr Middleton said the doctors were ’90 percent sure’ the collapse may have been caused by vaping, adding: ‘They could not find any other reason on why I did have a collapsed lung.’
Dr Panagis Galiatsatos, a critical care doctor at Johns Hopkins University, told DailyMail.com it was possible for vaping to cause a collapsed lung.
But, he added, this was unlikely in a healthy patient — and would likely only happen in people who had an underlying condition that weakened the lungs, such as asthma or Marfan syndrome, a genetic condition weakening connective tissue in the lungs.
‘You need a predisposition for this to happen,’ he said. ‘It’s not impossible without a predisposition, it is just something that’s improbable.’
When someone with an underlying condition smokes or vapes, this triggers inflammation in the lungs further weakening them — and raises the risk of a hole appearing in the wall of the lungs causing them to collapse.
Dr Galiatsatos added: ‘Inflammation is going to compromise the lungs.
‘If you are doing vaping over and over again, you are going to make the walls of the lungs lose their integrity, become more compliant, and then, in the right situation, that results in a tear.’
Dr Galiatsatos, who is also a spokesman for the American Lung Association, said he has seen two young patients with underlying conditions who vaped suffer from a collapsed lung so far.
He has seen many more smokers with the condition, but said this was likely because smokers tended to be older — with older adults being more at risk for a collapsed lung.
Less than ten percent of Americans have conditions that put them at higher risk of a lung collapse if they start vaping or smoking.
Mr Middleton has no underlying conditions that could cause a collapsed lung.
For treatment, Mr Middleton had a tube placed into his chest to suck air from the space between his lung and chest wall.
By draining air from this area, the vacuum was restored — stopping the lungs from collapsing and giving them time to repair the hole.
The teen was kept in the hospital for three days while doctors gradually reduced the amount of air being sucked from the cavity.
When, on day three, they turned off the machine and his lungs did not collapse, they removed the tube and discharged him.
He has now sworn off vapes — having gone home and thrown away all the devices in his truck and home.
Mr Middleton is pictured above in hospital. Doctors inserted a tube into his chest to suck air from the space between his lungs and the chest wall
He revealed his diagnosis while in hospital (shown) and uploaded video updates on his experience on social media
Mr Middleton has also quit cold-turkey, using nicotine patches for the first week and now relying on candy whenever he has a craving.
‘There are two types of cravings to deal with,’ he said.
‘There is one where you are craving nicotine, but that goes away within the first four to five days.
‘But the other is that… you crave the hand motion of bringing it up to your mouth or having [the vape] in your pocket or holding it in the morning, or when you get home.’
Asked how hard it was to quit vaping he said: ‘This last week I haven’t really had major cravings, but for the last few weeks I have been really having cravings a lot.
‘After I eat is a big one, because I would always puff on it right after, and I am also getting irritated a lot faster [by things at work].
‘Normally, if someone who I asked to do something didn’t do it, I’d be cool with it. But now I am getting annoyed.’
Mr Middleton talks about his struggles with vaping and his health scare in posts on social media and has started a campaign, called #freethelungs, where he encourages others to quit vaping in order to protect their health.
DailyMail.com contacted Shenzhen Hanqingda Technology Co, based in Shenzhen, China, for comment, but did not receive a response.