How could an otherwise healthy teenager have a lung scan that resembles that of a lifelong smoker three to four times his age? The tragic answer speaks volumes about the vaping epidemic sweeping the youth of America.
On the surface, Anthony Mayo, of Erie, Pennsylvania, looks a lot like any other American teenager. He played on the football team for Iroquois High School, had hopes of joining the military, and could be seen all dressed up with his prom date on his proud mom’s Facebook page.
But now the young man is in the Millcreek Hospital after suffering a terrifying drop in oxygen levels and debilitating coughing. His dad, Keith Mayo, told WJET, “He might have scarred lungs, he might not be able to join the military now […] We don’t know what is going to happen to him.”
Anthony Mayo had been vaping for about two years, his dad, Keith, told Metro US. The teen was one of those who fell in due to peer pressure, the “kid-friendly” vaping flavors, such as “Swedish fish” and “Cinnamon Toast Crunch,” and the belief that the habit wasn’t anything like smoking cigarettes.
He also admitted to mixing and combining nicotine vapes with THC versions. “I was using juules and enjoyce which are nicotine and I was also like vaped off the THC carts, I used both at the same time,” Mayo told Erie News Now.
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, out of 514 vape-related patients, 77% reported using THC, while only 16% said they only used nicotine.
“His whole spin on it was it was cool and not that bad for you,” Keith explains. “I was just as guilty. I went along with it. I never got into it, but I didn’t also prevent it either.”
As has been the case with other vaping users, when Anthony first arrived at the hospital, neither he nor the doctors knew what the real cause of the coughing was. Doctors thought it was just a case of bronchitis and sent the young man home with antibiotics. Anthony was back as soon as his symptoms worsened.
Because awareness of the hazards of vaping is still emerging, as pulmonary specialist Anand Popuri told WJET, “About a third of patients that are having this vaping-induced pneumonitis are getting sent home. Then they come back five days later so much more sick.”