Speaker talks of vaping struggle
Apr 18, 2022
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Robert Keuther, principal of Marshfield (Mass.) High Schoo, displays vaping devices that were confiscated from students in such places as restrooms or hallways at the school in this April 10, 2018 file photo. (AP/Steven Senne)
Although only 16 years old at the time, Daniel Ament was pretty certain about what he planned to do after graduating from high school. His ultimate goal was to attend the U.S. Naval Academy and pursue a career in the military as a Navy SEAL. But those plans were put on an indefinite pause -- a vaping-related illness led to 29 days on life support before receiving a double lung transplant. "It's been a struggle," Ament told participants at the Clearing the Air Conference in March. The conference was produced annually by the Minority Initiative Sub-Recipient Grant Office at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. He was a junior at Grosse Pointe North High School at Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich., when he became ill in 2019, according to Fight4Wellness.com. "I get very nauseous. It's hard to get out of bed some days and even harder to eat without being nauseous. Due to me not remembering much before my transplant, I've suffered from a lot of trauma, anxiety, nightmares, delusions due to drugs, and memory loss," he said in a news release. Vaping is the use of e-cigarettes, which are also sometimes called e-cigs, e-hookahs, vape pens and electronic nicotine delivery systems, or ENDS. They vary in appearance, with some e-cigarettes looking like regular cigarettes, cigars or pipes. Some look like USB flash drives, pens and other everyday items. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that the use of e-cigarettes is unsafe for kids, teens and young adults because most e-cigarettes contain nicotine. Nicotine is highly addictive and can harm adolescent brain development, which continues into the early to mid-20s, according to the release. They also can contain other harmful substances besides nicotine, which is one of the reasons the Arkansas Department of Health has issued a warning about the risk of lung illness from vaping. "It's been a hard journey due to issues mentally and physically," Ament said. "I've struggled with hanging out with friends, even outside of covid-19. Unfortunately, I missed the last two years of high school and special events, like prom and homecoming. Not being able to graduate with friends led to lost connections, and I lost sight of goals." Ament said he tried to quit vaping before he became gravely ill.
"I got injured during cross country. Due to my injury, I could no longer be involved in sports activities, which led me to vape. I had more time on my hands without sports. With vaping being so popular amongst my friend group, I eventually tried it, and it became continuous. I saw how much I began to vape and didn't want it to be a continuous thing for me so for a short amount of time I restrained myself from vaping when I was alone to try to stop vaping in totality." The CDC reported in 2019 that 29.2% of Arkansas high school youths reported they used some kind of tobacco product, including e-cigarettes. Ament said because vaping is so addictive students are always looking for a way to get a smoke. "Students would vape in the bathroom at school most of the time, boys and girls. They'd also vape in class a lot by having it up to their sleeve, or in their fist. To avoid having obvious smoke, they'd keep inhaling or blow the smoke in their shirt so it wouldn't be noticeable. Teachers weren't aware that it was happening because they weren't familiar. I hope now it can be prevented due to the increase in awareness." Now, more than two years into his recovery, Ament devotes his time to spreading the word about the harmful effects of vaping. He has launched the organization Fight 4 Wellness to educate teens about the dangers and to share his story of how vaping has changed the course of his life. "If you're currently vaping and looking to quit, reach out to an adult, whether it's your parents, mentor, teacher, etc., or ask someone for assistance," Ament said. "You can't do it alone. Developing a contrasting interest is also a great way to refrain from vaping." Arkansans who want to quit smoking of any kind should call the quit line: (800) 784-8669. Details: Ruthie Johnson, project specialist, Minority Initiative Sub-Recipient Grant Office, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, firstname.lastname@example.org. Print Headline: Speaker talks of vaping struggle