TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A 15-year-old Taiwanese teenager was in September diagnosed with pneumonia, which his hospital linked to his four-year vaping habit.
The Chung Shan Medical University (CSMU) Hospital said Tuesday (Dec. 1) that it had treated a young patient in September after he experienced symptoms of coughing, shortness of breath, epigastralgia, and nausea. An MRI scan of the boy's lungs showed him to be suffering from bilateral pneumonia.
The hospital said the boy admitted he had been smoking e-cigarettes since he was 11 without his parents' knowledge. Ruling out a viral or bacterial infection, doctors determined that vaping had led to the boy's illness and said his was the first vaping-associated case of pneumonia reported in Taiwan, according to CNA.
A survey conducted by the Health Promotion Administration in 2019 also showed that both e-cigarettes and regular tobacco products have caught on among Taiwanese teenagers. It is estimated that at least 81,000 teenagers smoke cigarettes, 57,000 smoke e-cigarettes, and 16,000 use heated tobacco products.
Lue Ko-huang (呂克桓), a pediatrician at CSMU Hospital, pointed out that while Taiwan's Health Promotion Administration is openly opposed to legalizing vapes, the Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act has not been amended for 13 years and has relatively light punishments for e-cigarette users. He added that vaping products have become more accessible for teenagers both online and at brick-and-mortar stores across the country.
Lue emphasized that e-cigarettes easily appeal to young Taiwanese because of the variety of flavored oils. He warned that most vaping devices contain nicotine and other harmful ingredients and that they can be just as addictive as other tobacco products.
Although not much is known about the long-term effects of using e-cigarettes, Lue said they could possibly hinder brain development and cause damage to the respiratory system. He urged the government to address the risks of vaping directly and introduce a comprehensive ban, reported HiNet.
The number of American teens who vape regularly has also been on the rise over the last decade. As of November 2020, at least 2,807 people have been hospitalized in that country for having vaping-related lung illnesses, and 68 of have died. In many of the cases, the patients' devices had been used to vape THC, the main psychoactive chemical in marijuana.
Despite increasing concern in Taiwan about vaping, the practice is still widely considered safer than traditional cigarettes and carries a "small fraction of the risk" of tobacco products, according to the U.K.'s National Health Service.