MIAMI BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - A South Florida teen who said he nearly died from smoking e-cigarettes is taking to social media in an effort to keep the products that harmed him out of the hands of his peers.
Chance Ammirata shared his painful story in front of the Miami Beach City Commission, Wednesday.
“Little did I know that over the course of just a year and a half of my ‘Juuling’ habit, I was completely destroying my lungs,” he said.
The 18-year-old, who was born and raised in the city, said he became addicted to vaping as a student at Miami Beach High School.
“About four months ago, I was hospitalized due to a collapsed lung, which would have been avoided if not for my Juul usage,” he said.
Ammirata said one of his lungs had a hole in it that required two surgeries and a tube in his chest to fix after just 18 months vaping.
The teen, who started vaping when he was 16, said his doctor even compared his lungs to those of a 50-year-old.
Thankfully, he has since recovered, but he said his eyes were opened to an even bigger problem.
“The only thing that I could think about was how all of my friends and most of the people in my high school were living under the distorted perception that their habits were safe,” he said.
Ammirata took action and started a nonprofit called the Lung Love organization and has launched a social media campaign with the hashtag #LungLove. He said he is trying to spread his message by speaking in classrooms, and he said he wants to begin educating students on the dangers of vaping as early as fifth grade.
Miami Beach commissioners said they’re open to supporting Ammirata’s efforts.
“I think it would be a wise thing for us to take this young man and his message and his experience and help him do as much as he can to make it into a positive remedial thing for our community and our children,” said Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber.
“They sound like they’re very much willing to do as much as they can to help make sure that no other kids are growing up with this nicotine addiction and find the quickest way to eradicate this epidemic before it becomes too large of a problem,” said Ammirata.
Ammirata’s message comes at a crucial time, as a second person in Florida has died due to complications from vaping.
The teen said he will start working with commissioners on implementing his ideas. For now, he has a message for any other teens with the urge to vape.
“Everyone who’s at home, they still have the option. They still have the chance to quit before it’s too late,” he said, “and I know it doesn’t look like anything crazy, and I know it looks safe, but it’s not, and that’s the reality of it.”
City commissioners said that they would help Ammirata spread his message to the state legislature.
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