Vaping illness: Teen's lungs aged 50 years from e-cigarette use, doctors say

An 18-year-old's vaping-related illness left him with lungs that more closely resembled a 70-year-old's than those of a teenager, according to his doctors.

Adam Hergenreder, a student-athlete from Gurnee, Ill., started vaping around a year and a half ago, CNN reports. Last month, he developed shivers and nausea that ultimately turned to days of uncontrollable vomiting.

"I was just nonstop throwing up every day for three days," he told CNN. "Finally I went to the pediatrician."

Doctors originally didn't suspect vaping as a cause — but after taking an X-ray of his lungs, they noticed something was wrong.

"That's when they saw the full damage," Hergenreder told CNN.

Hergenreder spent six days in the hospital, suffering from a "severe lung disease" that required him to be hooked up to IVs and breathing devices. He told CNN he was shocked to hear from his doctors that his lungs looked like those of "a 70-year-old."

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"It was scary to think about that — that little device did that to my lungs," he said. 

Hergenreder is just one of nearly 500 Americans to be diagnosed with a mysterious, vaping-related lung disease that has so far resulted in at least six deaths. An investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has yet to find a specific cause of the illness, but it has identified a link to e-cigarette usage.

The situation reached the White House on Wednesday, as the Trump administration announced it would ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. It's believed that those cartridges — which often feature fruity flavors like strawberry lemonade and mango — contribute to teenage vaping.

That was the case for Hergenreder, who told CNN he started vaping because "it tasted good." He said he started buying the cartridges at gas stations when he was underage, noting that he was not carded for the purchases.

Both Hergenreder and his mother, Polly Hergenreder, have used the situation to speak out against underage vaping, with Polly taking to Facebook to warn other parents of the risks.

"The Juul is the DEVIL! If you love me and want to know what to do, share this post! Come have your kids see my son struggle to breathe!" Polly said in a Facebook post last week.

Polly also said she was thankful they caught the illness when they did, as it could have become even worse.

"The doctors did tell us that if we did not bring Adam in when we brought him in, his lungs would have collapsed and he would have died," Polly told CNN.

Adam told CNN he's already convinced some of his friends to stop vaping, saying he wants to use his story to help others.

"I don't want to see anybody in my situation. I don't want to see anybody in the hospital for as long as I was."