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An Indiana vape addict was hospitalized after smoking more than a cartridge a day of e-juice caused him to cough up more than three pints of blood.

Dustin Fitzgerald, 45, of Clinton, was diagnosed with bacterial pneumonia after continuously puffing on the nicotine vape for up to 12 hours a day for ten months.

Doctors said the oily chemicals found in e-liquid sparked an inflammatory response in his lungs, causing a dangerous build-up of fluid.

Like millions of Americans, Mr Fitzgerald took up vaping as a ‘healthy’ alternative to smoking in an attempt to kick his 60-cigarette-a-day habit.

Disposable e-cigarettes like those pictured sent Dustin Fitzgerald, 45, into violent coughing fits that landed him in the intensive care unit with bacterial pneumonia. The devices have long been considered by many to be a safer alternative to cigarettes, but health officials and experts warn that is far from the truth

Disposable e-cigarettes like those pictured sent Dustin Fitzgerald, 45, into violent coughing fits that landed him in the intensive care unit with bacterial pneumonia. The devices have long been considered by many to be a safer alternative to cigarettes, but health officials and experts warn that is far from the truth

Mr Fitzgerald holding up a bag of his blood

The vape addict took up the habit to kick cigarettes

Mr Fitzgerald, who had coughed up three pints’ worth of blood, was quarantined in the intensive care unit as doctors feared it could be down to hepatitis or tuberculosis

But he began to cough violently, often losing sleep because of it and ended up in the hospital after coughing up three pints of blood.

The harrowing ordeal is just the latest in a number of examples of e-cigarettes, widely believed to be a safer alternative to smoking, severely injuring users.

In Ohio, Amanda Stelzer, 34, an avid e-cigarette user for years, was recently diagnosed with acute respiratory distress syndrome – a deadly condition that occurs when a person’s lungs become so damaged they fail to provide the rest of the body with enough oxygen.

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Mr Fitzgerald, like many e-cigarette users, was a heavy smoker before taking up vaping. He had been a lifelong smoker and got through up to three packs a day. But he knew the habit was hurting him physically and financially.

To help kick the pricy habit in January 2022, he bought vapes. Specifically, he bought XL 3000-puff vape pens and would finish a whole eight-milliliter-cartridge in less than a week. For comparison, Juul, one of the most popular e-cigarette  That’s equivalent to about one and a half Juul pods per day. 

But after several months, he began to notice himself developing a strong cough – but didn’t know why. Over time it became more and more violent – and in October 2022, he visited a doctor about it.

Prior to Mr Fitzgerald coughing up blood and going to the hospital, when all he was experiencing as a severe cough and difficulty breathing, doctors diagnosed him incorrectly with bronchitis which also causes those symptoms.

Mr Fitzgerald said: ‘Once I started coughing, I just couldn’t stop – not even while I was trying to sleep.

But later the same day he was given a bronchitis diagnosis, he started coughing up blood, so he and wife Amy Fitzgerald, 43, rushed to the emergency department.

Mr Fitzgerald said: ‘When I noticed the blood, it really freaked me out. I was coughing up a lot, and it was straight blood.

‘When I got there, the doctors said I had lost three whole pints – they even worried I would need a blood transfusion.’

Once in the hospital, Mr Fitzgerald was quarantined in the intensive care unit as doctors feared it could be down to hepatitis or tuberculosis, he said. He was then put on an oxygen supply with a mask around his head – but that didn’t stop him from trying to sneak his vape in with him.

He said: ‘I barely took a hit and then my chest felt like someone had put ten elephants on it.

‘I felt like I was going to die. That moment scared me more than the blood.’

Once hospitalized, he was eventually diagnosed with bacterial pneumonia, a serious lung infection in which the lung’s air sacs become inflamed and sometimes fill with fluid, pus, and cellular debris. Vaping is believed to increase the chances of becoming infected with bacterial pneumonia.

Research published in the European Respiratory Journal in 2018 showed that e-cigarette vapor helps pneumococcal bacteria stick to airway-lining cells, increasing the risk of infection. 

The effect is very similar to how cigarettes interact with the airways, further poking holes in the theory that vapes are a safer smoking alternative.

Pediatric respiratory medicine professor Jonathan Grigg at Queen Mary University of London said when the study came out: ‘Some people may be vaping because they think it is totally safe, or in an attempt to quit smoking, but this study adds to growing evidence that inhaling vapor has the potential to cause adverse health effects.

By contrast, other aids to quitting such as patches or gum do not result in airway cells being exposed to high concentrations of potentially toxic compounds.’

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Before his harrowing experience, Mr Fitzgerald would puff on his device all day long, even while at work. Many e-cigarettes on the market produce little or no smell, making it a less invasive alternative to smoking. But that also encourages users to take more puffs.

He said: ‘But once I started coughing, I just couldn’t stop – not even while I was trying to sleep. When I noticed I was coughing blood I was freaked out – but I still didn’t make the connection it was from vaping.

‘If you ever decide to vape, do it wisely – and if you start coughing a lot, put it right down and walk away. It’s just not worth it.’

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