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Vaping caused my lungs to collapse twice at the age of 20 – now they are permanently scarred

A 20-year-old vaping addict has been told she may not live to see her 40th birthday after the near-constant urge to vape left her burning two holes in her lungs.

Karlee Ozkurt from Wisconsin started this habit in 2018 at the age of 15 because she thought it made her look “badass.” She soon came to rely on the device so much that she was smoking a 600-puff a day device.

Doctors told her to stop vaping after her right lung first collapsed in November 2021, leaving her feeling like the organ was “on fire.”

But after three months of ‘on and off vaping’ she started using the devices full-time again, only to experience a second problem with her right lung a year later.

Due to her serious condition, doctors subsequently had to fuse the lung to her chest wall in the hope of preventing further collapses, and urged her to stop vaping.

Ms Ozkurt returned home after the procedure in November 2022, but says she still struggles to quit because she is so addicted to the high of nicotine.

Karlee Ozkurt, now 20 and from Wisconsin, said she started vaping in school at age 15 so she would look 'badass'

Karlee Ozkurt, now 20 and from Wisconsin, said she started vaping in school at age 15 so she would look ‘badass’

Pictured above is one of Ms. Ozkurt's vapes.  She said she was a fan of Elf bars for their fruity flavors, like blueberry and watermelon

Pictured above is one of Ms. Ozkurt's vapes.  She said she was a fan of Elf bars for their fruity flavors, like blueberry and watermelon

Pictured above is one of Ms. Ozkurt’s vapes. She said she was a fan of Elf bars for their fruity flavors, like blueberry and watermelon

Ms Ozkurt said: ‘You never think this kind of thing will happen to you – but it happened to me. It felt like my lung was on fire.

‘I fell into the trap of thinking vaping was cool, but it’s stupid. I didn’t realize it until it was too late.

‘And the worrying thing is that I still don’t know if I have caused irreparable damage because we are not aware of the long-term effects.

“I could die at 40 or 50, all because of a five-year habit of pressuring me.”

Ms. Ozkurt said she became addicted to Elf bars, disposable vapes with flavors like blueberry, watermelon and grape.

She told DailyMail.com that she has now gone two weeks without vaping, but was concerned about being able to use the device again.

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Originally marketed as a way to quit smoking traditional cigarettes, studies are beginning to suggest that vaping is no less dangerous, citing a mixture of more than 7,000 chemicals in the toxic smoke.

People can also inflate the devices hundreds of times a day, increasing the risk of conditions such as cancer and high levels of inflammation in the lungs, which can damage organs.

According to estimates, tobacco use among 11 to 18 year olds has increased by almost a quarter compared to last year.  However, the CDC cautions against the comparison because in 2021, studies had to be done from home due to the pandemic.  This may have affected the results

According to estimates, tobacco use among 11 to 18 year olds has increased by almost a quarter compared to last year.  However, the CDC cautions against the comparison because in 2021, studies had to be done from home due to the pandemic.  This may have affected the results

According to estimates, tobacco use among 11 to 18 year olds has increased by almost a quarter compared to last year. However, the CDC cautions against the comparison because in 2021, studies had to be done from home due to the pandemic. This may have affected the results

The maximum permitted nicotine content in a vapor is set at 20 milligrams of nicotine per milliliter of liquid (two percent) in Europe, the United Kingdom and Canada.  These devices last approximately 550 to 600 puffs.  In the US it is quite easy to find a device or capsule that contains as much as 5 percent nicotine

The maximum permitted nicotine content in a vapor is set at 20 milligrams of nicotine per milliliter of liquid (two percent) in Europe, the United Kingdom and Canada.  These devices last approximately 550 to 600 puffs.  In the US it is quite easy to find a device or capsule that contains as much as 5 percent nicotine

The maximum permitted nicotine content in a vapor is set at 20 milligrams of nicotine per milliliter of liquid (two percent) in Europe, the United Kingdom and Canada. These devices last approximately 550 to 600 puffs. In the US it is quite easy to find a device or capsule that contains as much as 5 percent nicotine

About one in 10 high school students now vape, and many are drawn to the fruity flavors available in brands and teen-targeted ads. Half of these become addicted, figures show.

And even more companies are predicted to adopt the habit, with analysts suggesting the market will almost double from $22.45 billion in 2022 to a whopping $39.1 billion by 2032.

And Ms Ozkurt is far from the first young person to suffer a serious vaping injury, with previous cases including a 25-year-old man in California and a 19-year-old vape addict in Florida.

She said she started vaping in 2018 during her sophomore year of high school after seeing her older friends do it, who would later buy the devices for the minors.

In Wisconsin, it is not legal to purchase and use vapes under the age of 18.

“I should have known from the start that it wasn’t a good thing,” she said.

“But I wanted to look like a badass while I was doing it. I was fifteen, naive and impressionable.’

Ms. Ozkurt says she quickly became addicted to the devices because of the rush nicotine gave her, especially when she was anxious or stressed. She started puffing more and more to chase the high.

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But in November 2021, her right lung collapsed while she was working in the service industry.

Ms. Ozkurt initially went home, believing she had pulled a muscle, but after a sleepless night, pain and difficulty breathing, she went to the emergency room.

A chest x-ray subsequently revealed that her right lung had collapsed.

Lung collapse occurs when a hole develops in the side of the lung, preventing it from inflating and deflating properly so a person can breathe normally.

Her lung was reinflated with a syringe after doctors gave her oxygen to help the hole heal – but they warned that if she didn’t stop vaping it would happen again.

However, after three months of trying, Ms. Ozkurt returned to the habit, only to have the same lung collapse again a year later.

She said, “MMy lung collapsed again after months of a bad chest cold.

‘Your chance of recurrence increases every time it happens – so this time I had to have surgery to fuse my lung to my chest wall.

‘After a CT scan and surgery on my lung, my doctor noticed real scars at the bottom and all along it.

‘When I regained consciousness I asked him what the cause could be – and he said no doubt it was the vaping.’

Ms Ozkurt has now undergone treatment to fuse her lung to her chest wall using chemicals that deliberately cause scarring, triggering the fusion.

Doctors do this to close off the pleural space – or the space that doesn’t contain air between the lungs and the chest – to help the organs inflate and deflate.

They said this will ensure the problem doesn’t happen again.

Ms Ozkurt said: ‘You don’t need vaping to live – it’s just a habit you have to break.

‘It takes three to four weeks to break a habit – I don’t want it to last the rest of my life.

‘I have friends who are a year or two younger than me – I want to say to them: don’t even start.

“It’s not cool, just stupid.”

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