An autopsy has deemed vaping was the likely cause of death of 71-year old Queensland man Peter Hansen, prompting dire warnings of more deaths to come.
Mr Hansen died last October, having vaped for around 10 years after giving up smoking.
ABC’s 7:30 reported on Monday that an autopsy conducted at the request of his family revealed the cause of death to have been an acute lung injury, consistent with EVALI.
EVALI is a term used to describe the impact of vaping on the lungs. It stands for e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury.
Mr Hansen was taken to hospital by ambulance after having difficulty breathing and was subsequently placed on life support which was switched off after doctors told his family there was no hope of recovery.
The prevalence of vaping among Australians aged 14 or older more than doubled from 2016 to 2019 and is most common with people aged 18–24, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
Australians currently need a prescription to legally access nicotine vapes, however there are concerns some people are buying the devices illegally.
Intensive care doctor, Sean McManus, who treated Mr Hansen said he supports the autopsy’s findings that vaping was responsible for his death.
“I feel quite passionately that there was no other clear cause for his death,” he told 7:30.
“In the absence of anything else, my feeling was that, well, certainly in the history and the presentation of Peter, it was obvious that the e-cigarettes was a large part of it.”
While the long term effects of vaping are not well known, a large number of health experts say ingesting foreign chemicals into the lungs as occurs with vaping is a recipe for disaster.
“I think our worry as a healthcare community is that ten years from now, we will see a lot more of this as it comes through,” Dr McManus said.
Mr Hansen’s step daughter was the one that convinced him to quit cigarettes and said she believed vaping was better for his health.
“He said to me, it won‘t harm anyone around me. It won’t harm anyone,” she said.
Doctor Colin Mendelsohn is the founding chairman of the Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association and advocate for vaping as a better option for those looking to quit cigarettes.
He does not think the autopsy results were conclusive enough to say vaping definitely caused the lung damage, which he says is also consistent with the long term effects of smoking.
“Even if in the worst-case scenario, [that] this was the case of the EVALI, I think we need to keep it in perspective and look at the huge benefits to other smokers from vaping,” Dr Mendelsohn said.
“It‘s not successful for everyone but there are many smokers who have made the switch and quit smoking, who hadn’t been able to quit with other methods.”