A father who quit cigarettes after 20 years and had a heart attack and cardiac arrest earlier this year has blamed e-cigarettes for his near-death experience.
Stephen Davies, of Yeovil in Somerset, began vaping five years ago when he ditched smoking to try and improve his health and get fitter.
And he has led an active life since, going to the gym three times a week, playing for a football team and going for weekly 5km (3.1mile) runs.
But in April this year he felt pain in his jaw which then progressed to an indigestion-like sensation and difficulty breathing. He woke up in the night having a heart attack.
After recovering in hospital the father-of-four has vowed never to touch an e-cigarette again because he is convinced they caused his illness.
His discharge notes from the hospital even said the doctor had advised him to quit the habit, which Mr Davies had believed would be healthier.
Stephen Davies had smoked cigarettes for 20 years before he decided to give up five years ago so he could live a healthier life. Earlier this year he had a cardiac arrest and a heart attack
Mr Davies pictured with his son, Charlie, before his heart attack. The father-of-four said: ‘I took up vaping because I thought it was the healthier option and would help me wean myself away from the fags’
Mr Davies said: ‘I made the decision to quit the fags five years ago because I just wanted to feel healthier and not run out of breath when I worked out.
‘I took up vaping because I thought it was the healthier option and would help me wean myself away from the fags.
‘The doctor told me they don’t know enough about vaping to know what lasting effect it has on the human body, and advised me to give up vaping as it could be the cause of my heart attack and cardiac arrest.
‘I’ve never had problems with my heart in my life, and my wife and I honestly believe my heart attack and my cardiac arrest were caused by my vaping.
‘I’ll never vape again and I can’t believe I nearly died when I was just trying to become a healthier version of myself.’
Mr Davies started smoking in his early 20s and continued to enjoy cigarettes for the next two decades.
Since taking up the dangerous habit, Mr Davies has had four children and got married to his wife Karolina Davies, 40, which has made him re-evaluate his health.
Smoking is known to cause deadly heart damage by causing a build-up of fatty material in the arteries and putting strain on the heart, as well as making blood more likely to clot and raising the risk of a stroke.
The hard-working father was already participating in various fitness activities – going to the gym three times a week, playing in a football team and doing 5k runs once a week – but wanted to ditch the fags to improve his health further.
Mr Davies quit smoking in 2014 and switched to vaping in the belief that it was a healthier alternative.
He used the £25 vape pen containing a 16mg nicotine liquid until April 5, this year, when he started struggling to breathe.
Mr Davies said: ‘I’d started feeling a bit breathless with some jaw pain during the day at work, but I just ignored it.
Mr Davies said he enjoyed running (left) and wanted to be better at it so he stopped smoking cigarettes, but the production supervisor’s heart stopped earlier this year and he said he’d never had heart problems until taking up vaping
Mr Davies said his heart attack began as pain in his jaw and then felt like indigestion – but he woke up in the middle of the night unable to breathe
‘When I got home that night, it felt like I had bad indigestion, so I took some Rennies and went to bed early to try and sleep it off.
‘I woke up in the middle of the night, unable to breathe and in a huge amount of pain – I was having a heart attack.
‘My wife Karolina phoned 999, and whilst I was in the ambulance, I had a cardiac arrest.
‘The paramedics had to restart my heart, and it was like waking up from a horrible dream.
HOW COULD VAPING BE HARMFUL?
The flavourings in electronic cigarettes may damage blood vessels in the same way as heart disease, according to research published in June 2018.
The chemicals used to give the vapour flavours, such as cinnamon, strawberry and banana, can cause inflammation in cells in the arteries, veins and heart.
They cause the body to react in a way that mimics the early signs of heart disease, heart attacks or strokes, the study by Boston University found.
Other recent studies have also suggested smoking e-cigarettes could cause DNA mutations which lead to cancer, and enable pneumonia-causing bacteria to stick to the lungs easier.
Researchers at New York University subjected human bladder and lung cells to e-cigarette vapor, which is marketed as being healthier than tobacco.
They found the cells mutated and became cancerous much faster than expected and mice exposed to the vapour also suffered significant DNA damage.
In another study, scientists at Queen Mary University, London, found vaping makes users more likely to catch pneumonia – just like smoking tobacco or breathing in traffic fumes.
The vapour from e-cigarettes helps bacteria which cause the condition to stick to the cells that line the airways, they said.
The effect occurs with traditional cigarette smoke and those who are exposed to air pollution high in particulates from vehicle exhausts.
‘It jolted me up and I felt this awful draining feeling – I knew my heart had stopped, and that was truly terrifying. I thought I was going to die.’
Mr Davies’s main artery had a blood clot going into the left ventricle of his heart, causing the heart attack and cardiac arrest.
After restarting his heart in the ambulance, Mr Davies was rushed into the operating theatre of Musgrove Park Hospital.
Cardiac surgeons put a stent into his heart and saved the young father’s life, although he has been left with heart damage.
Mr Davies was kept in the hospital for two days until doctors declared him stable enough to leave and he was discharged on April 9.
In Mr Davies’s discharge notes, consultant cardiologist Dr Oliver Gosling wrote he was ‘advised to stop vaping and referred for cardiac rehabilitation.’
The previously healthy father is convinced that vaping is the cause of his brush with death and hasn’t picked up a vape pen since his hospital admittance.
Mr Davies said: ‘Before my heart attack, I’ve always been healthy – I stayed fit, my cholesterol was really low, I maintained a healthy weight.
‘The cardiac consultant Dr Gosling who saved my life told me to stop vaping.
‘He told me that although they couldn’t be certain my heart problems were caused by vaping, they also don’t know exactly what lasting effects vaping has on the body.
‘He said if I couldn’t give up vaping completely, then at least switch to a liquid with no nicotine in, as it’s the nicotine that stiffens the arteries.
‘The doctors couldn’t 100 per cent guarantee it was because I was vaping, but my wife and I swear it was the vape pen that did this to me.
‘I had to have rehab for four months afterwards where I did monitored cardio activity to build up heart strength, and I’m paying for extra rehab now to try and get back to where I used to be fitness wise.
‘I think I was unlucky. Vaping is still healthier than fags, but if you’re unlucky like me, it can be a killer.’
Clare Boobyer-Jones, smokefree lead at Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust,said: ‘When a patient who smokes enters our hospital, they will be offered support to stop smoking.
‘We know that lots of smokers would like support to stop and that refraining from smoking can be very difficult.
‘Smokers are four times more likely to stop smoking with the use of nicotine replacement products and NHS support.
Mr Davies said his doctor had told him vaping could be to blame for his heart trouble and advised him to stop using e-cigarettes
‘Following advice from Public Health England (PHE) we have recently updated our smoke free policy inside the hospital grounds to allow vaping for those who are currently using this as a way of stopping smoking.
‘PHE guidance states that vaping carries a small fraction of the risk of smoking.
‘Using a nicotine-containing e-cigarette makes it much more likely someone will quit successfully than relying on willpower alone – three studies this year have found them twice as effective as nicotine replacement therapy alone.
‘But it’s important to use UK-regulated e-liquids and never risk vaping home-made or illicit e-liquids or adding substances.’
Rosanna O’ Connor, director of drugs, alcohol, tobacco and justice at Public Health England said: ‘Our advice remains that while not completely risk free, UK regulated e-cigarettes carry a fraction of the risk of smoked tobacco.’
E-CIGARETTES ‘NEARLY KILLED ME AT 16’
Ewan Fisher, now 19, was rushed to A&E in May 2017 after vomiting a neon green liquid and gasping for breath just four months after taking up e-cigarettes.
He had to be hooked up to life support in intensive care when his vital organs failed and an artificial lung was needed to pump oxygen through his body.
The teenager, from Nottingham, is believed to have suffered an exaggerated immune response to chemicals found in e-cigarette fluid.
Mr Fisher was rushed to A&E after vomiting a neon green liquid and gasping for breath just four months after taking up vaping
He was diagnosed with hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP), which sees the air sacs and airways in the lungs become severely inflamed.
The condition is triggered by an allergic reaction to inhaled dust, fungus, moulds or chemicals.
It has been linked to the vaping epidemic in the US, which has seen 40 people die and more than 2,000 hospitalised with mysterious lung diseases associated with the devices.
The tale was revealed by Nottingham University Hospitals Trust doctors in the
Mr Fisher said: ‘I switched to vaping because I thought it would be healthier and I was really into my boxing at the time so wanted to feel fit.
‘In the run-up to going to hospital, I had a choking cough and I was struggling to breathe. My mum was really worried and took me to Queen’s Medical Centre.
‘I was really struggling to breathe and they rushed me into a side ward and it went downhill from there.
‘I ended up in intensive care and needed two forms of life support. I almost died.’
Mr Fisher said his health is now back to about 80 per cent of what it was but that he still suffers from mental health issues because of the ordeal.