Vaping was introduced to the public as a buzz that could be achieved in places where people aren't allowed to smoke—a selling point that made the activity massively popular among both nicotine-addicted adults who want to get their fix at bars, and teens who want to get sort-of high inside high school bathroom stalls.
It was also introduced as something that was pretty safe, though that claim is starting to look a little dubious. Since the trend took hold, scientists have warned that vaping could possibly cause something called "popcorn lung," and that some chemicals used to create e-liquid flavors like popcorn, vanilla, and cinnamon can cause tissue damage. But now the journal Pediatrics has published the most harrowing anti-vape cautionary tale yet—the case study of an 18-year-old hostess in Pennsylvania who developed something called "wet lung" after vaping for only three weeks.
According to the case study, the unnamed woman was healthy before she started vaping, but then developed a cough and stabbing pains that were bad enough to land her in the emergency room at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Doctors there found that she met the criteria for acute respiratory distress syndrome, and she was intubated so that they could drain the build-up in her lungs.
"She was unable to get enough oxygen into her blood from her lungs and required a mechanical ventilator [respirator] to breathe for her until her lungs recovered," one of her doctors, Daniel Weiner, told CNN.
Apparently inhaling chemicals gave the unnamed patient hypersensitivity pneumonitis, or "wet lung," which can also be caused by breathing in dust. Lead author of the study, Dr. Casey Sommerfeld, said that it was the chemicals in the e-cigarettes that caused her lung damage and inflammation.
If there's any solace to be had, the woman apparently reported previous problems with light asthma in the past, and research has shown that e-cigarette use can be a problem for those who have that illness. But despite the her full recovery, it's still a pretty scary discovery for people who have made the switch to vaping out of increased awareness of their own mortality, as well as kids doing it for the 'gram.
Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.
Follow Allie Conti on Twitter.