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Teen speaks out after vaping-induced lung injury

More teens than ever are smoking e-cigs — but not always with nicotine
Posted at 12:02 AM, Oct 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-08 00:04:05-04

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- A Tampa Bay area teen has a new perspective after he spent weeks at the hospital, due to what he said was a vaping-induced lung injury.

“At the time, I thought nothing was gonna happen,” said Alexander Barbieri, explaining he vaped previously.

“I was vaping nicotine. I was doing majority, I think, got me a lot was THC cartridges,” he said.

The 18-year-old said in the spring he fell sick, eventually having a hard time breathing. Initially, he said there were concerns about COVID-19, though he never tested positive.

Eventually, he ended up at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.

“We suspected there was potentially COVID infection at the same time, but we do believe majority of his symptoms were related to the fact he was a vaper,” said Dr. Anthony Sochet, part of team who helped treat him.

Barbieri said he ended up in the hospital for nearly three weeks.

“This could have been prevented if I didn’t, you know, after I found out it was vaping. I was giving myself a hard time, but you know, it was just scary honestly,” said Barbieri.

Dr. Sochet said vaping-related lung injuries are something that's not uncommon. Now, it’s part of their screening for kids in an age range where vaping could be suspected.

“If the debate is about whether or not vaping is safe for the lung, whether it’s nicotine-containing flavored or otherwise, the scientific community has pretty much pinpointed that it’s not healthy for your body. That’s from a respiratory standpoint,” said Dr. Sochet. “Here at All Children’s, we also suspect that it’s not healthy for the mind and the other organs in the body.”

Dr. Sochet said they’re approved to start a new study looking at the impact of vaping on a teen’s whole body, and their quality of life. He said they’re enrolling 80 patients, including those who vape and those who don’t vape. They’ll use questionnaires and take samples to gain more insight.

“We know that vaping is toxic to the lungs we don’t have to prove that to anybody although we want to know more about that. However, what about the whole body? How else is it affecting children and does it even affect their quality of life?” he said.

Life has a new perspective for Barbieri.

“Like I think of the outcome before I do it. I think before I act this time. I wake up and I’m blessed to be alive,” the teen said.

Now, he’s no longer vaping and speaking out about his ordeal to help others.

“Be safe, be smart and just think about what you’re doing. Is that really what you want to do or is that something you want to do for that moment?” he said.