A Taichung doctor has urged people not to use e-cigarettes, after treating a 15-year-old boy who developed severe pneumonia after using the devices for four years.
The boy, who was rushed to the hospital after reporting that he was unable to breathe, was placed on a respirator and treated with steroids for 10 days, Chung Shan Medical University Hospital physician Lu Ko-huan (呂克桓) said.
E-cigarettes, which use oil containing nicotine and various chemicals that make them addictive, cannot be used as a means of breaking an addiction to smoking tobacco products, Lu said.
“They also impact the development of a child’s brain and can lead to cancer,” he said, adding that the government should do more to restrict e-cigarette use among youth.
The Taichung City Government in March introduced the Taichung Autonomous Act for E-Cigarette Hazards Prevention (台中市電子煙危害防制自治條例), which went into effect on Sept. 28 with fines of NT$10,000 to NT$50,000 for providing e-cigarettes or related items to minors or pregnant women.
The boy Lu treated had been exposed to tobacco throughout his life, since his parents are smokers, demonstrating the influence this can have on children, he said, adding that the boy’s parents were unaware that he had been using e-cigarettes.
“When his parents brought him in, he had a bad cough and stomach pain, and had been vomiting. Initially they thought he just had a bad cold or gastritis,” he said.
Doctors initially screened the boy for COVID-19, and after tests returned negative, asked him about e-cigarette use, Lu said.
Although the boy has recovered, doctors would continue to monitor him for evidence of scarring of his lungs, hardening of his blood vessels and brain disease, he said.
E-cigarettes could cause people to ingest nicotine and other harmful chemicals at an accelerated rate, as one e-cigarette capsule contains the equivalent of three packs of cigarettes, he said.
E-cigarettes contain a number of harmful chemicals, such as the carcinogens formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, as well as propylene glycol and diethylene glycol, which can damage the lungs, he said.
Some components of e-cigarettes can also damage the liver, skin and other organs, he said.
“Taiwanese often believe that e-cigarettes are not that harmful, and companies market them as a solution to quit smoking,” he said, adding that e-cigarettes are addictive and harmful.
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