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Taiwanese Doctor Blames E-Cigarettes for Teen’s Pneumonia

Taiwanese media recently reported the case of a 15-year-old boy who developed severe pneumonia after allegedly using electronic cigarettes for four years.

According to an article in the English edition of the Taipei Times, the unnamed 15-year-old from Taichung was rushed to the Chung Shan Medical University Hospital with serious respiratory problems, placed on a respirator and treated with steroids for 10 days. Doctors initially tested him for Covid-19, but after tests came back negative, they immediately asked him about e-cigarette use. Case solved!

“Taiwanese often believe that e-cigarettes are not that harmful, and companies market them as a solution to quit smoking,” Dr. Lu Ko-huan, who treated the boy said. He considers e-cigs addictive and harmful, adding that “they also impact the development of a child’s brain and can lead to cancer”.

The funny thing about this story is that the only mentioned link between the teenager’s pneumonia and vaping is his alleged four year long history of e-cigarette use. I know we’re all different, but some people have been vaping for over 10 years and have never reported any respiratory health issues. If anything, scientific and medical evidence shows an improvement of respiratory functions when switching from smoking to vaping.

Interestingly, the article does mention the teenager’s long history of being exposed to tobacco, since his parents are both smoking. However, instead of placing the blame on cigarette smoke, the doctor went in on vaping, making it seem infinitely worse than tobacco smoking.

Dr. Lu reportedly told Taipei Times journalists that “electronic 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 added that e-cigs contain a host of harmful chemicals, such as “the carcinogens formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, as well as propylene glycol and diethylene glycol, which can damage the lungs”.

The doctor’s view of electronic cigarettes is not supported by scientific evidence. An e-cigarette capsule does not contain the equivalent of three packs of cigarettes, not even in nicotine content, let alone other chemicals, and while vaping does generate some trace amounts of formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, they are orders of magnitude lower than the levels generated by tobacco smoking.

Unfortunately, despite lacking any kind of pertinent evidence linking the teenage boy’s pneumonia to vaping, the story spread on social media, after being picked by multiple media outlets, including the English version of Focus Taiwan. The negative publicity for vaping couldn’t have come at a worse time either, considering that Taiwanese authorities are mulling a comprehensive ban on electronic cigarettes. It makes you wonder if this was a hit job…

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