- After vaping daily, high school junior Daniel Ament had to undergo an emergency double lung transplant.
- His doctor said his lungs were "so scarred they didn't even deflate."
- After his transplant, Ament created a nonprofit called Fight4Wellness to raise awareness about the dangers of vaping.
- Ament's twin brother still vapes. "He's really stubborn," Daniel told Insider. "Kids think they're invincible, that nothing will happen to them."
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Daniel Ament, a 17-year-old high school junior, made headlines in 2019 for becoming the first person to undergo a double lung transplant due to vaping-related lung damage. Now Ament's created a nonprofit, Fight4Wellness, to raise awareness among vapers about the risks they face.
One of those people is his own twin brother, who still vapes.
At the time of his surgery, Ament was anonymous, but in he went public in January, speaking about the dangers of vaping.
"My goal is to educate kids on the dangers of substance abuse," he told Insider.
Before vaping damaged his lungs, Ament was a dedicated runner and sailor. In the summer of 2019, Ament began sharing vapes with his friends at parties — just as a series of mysterious vaping-related illnesses began to make headlines.
"I always heard vaping was a healthy alternative to cigarettes," Ament said. "That you'd feel clean after."
This was still before a spate of studies emerged about the potentially dangerous oils and chemicals in vapes, and it was before a flurry of negative press and a White House ban forced e-cigarette startup Juul to stop selling flavored e-cigarettes.
Ament vaped daily that summer, and planned to stop when school started. By that time, he was having difficulty breathing.
At the same time Ament went to the hospital, the nation was experiencing an outbreak of then-unexplained vaping illnesses, which were killing teenagers. His was the first case that required a lung transplant.
When Ament went to the emergency room, doctors realized a double lung transplant was his only option."We had to transplant him or pull support," thoracic surgeon Dr. Hassan Nemeh told Time. "I truly don't think he had a lot of time left."
Nemeh described Ament's lungs as "so scarred they didn't even deflate." He said the lungs were as solid as truck-tire rubber.
Ament's new mission is getting people like his twin brother to stop vaping
Ament, who now has to take 20 pills a day, can no longer go to military school like he'd hoped. His goal with Fight4Wellness to warn other teens, like his own twin brother, who still vapes, about the dangers of e-cigarettes.
"He's really stubborn," Ament said of his brother. "A lot of younger kids, like my brother and my friends, feel like they're invincible, like nothing will happen to them."
"I try to argue my point using as many facts as I can," he said. "I tell people no one knows what's in them, that no one knows what chemicals are in it or how they're interacting."
Vaping is incredibly addictive, especially for younger people
One 2019 CDC survey showed that almost a third of high school students use one or more tobacco products, with e-cigarettes being the most popular.
Companies like Juul and Puff Bars followed in the footsteps of tobacco companies by marketing aggressively to younger potential customers. In November 2018, Juul committed to stop marketing to young people. But an analysis of 14,000 Juul-related Instagram posts revealed that the company no longer needed to advertise to young people, because they were marketing the brand to each other on social media.
It was the nicotine content that got Ament hooked, not the fun, fruity, now-banned flavors, like mango, cucumber, and creme. "I don't think banning flavors will do much to people already addicted," said Ament. "It's the nicotine."
Research shows younger people are more vulnerable to nicotine poisoning. Nicotine can disrupt brain development for young people, especially considering the brain isn't fully developed until age 25.
In September 2019, the Trump administration declared a permanent ban on flavored e-cigarettes. But teens have reportedly been exploiting a loophole — flavored disposable e-cigarettes are still allowed.
To the teens of the world, Ament just wants to say this: "Be smart, do your research."
9 alarming facts about the vaping illness epidemic
Vaping may increase your lung disease risk even if you don't smoke tobacco, according to a massive study of vapers
The wild history of vaping, from a 1927 'electric vaporizer' to today's mysterious lung injury crisis
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