WHEN Stephen Davies ditched cigarettes for vaping, he expected to feel healthier and fitter.
But the 49-year-old suffered a heart attack and cardiac arrest – which doctors believe was down to his new smoking substitute.
The dad-of-four, from Yeovil, Somerset, gave up cigarettes in 2014 after 20 years of smoking.
He was already going to the gym three times a week and playing for a local football team but wanted to feel healthier.
The production supervisor bought a £25 vape pen and would regularly puff away on a nicotine liquid cartridge instead of cigarettes.
But on April 5, this year, he started struggling to breathe and noticed some jaw pain while at work.
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
Stephen said:”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.
“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.”
Stephen’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, Stephen was rushed into the operating theatre of Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton.
Cardiac surgeons put a stent into his heart and saved the dad’s life, although he has been left with heart damage.
He was kept in the hospital for two days until doctors declared him stable enough to leave.
In Stephen’s discharge notes, consultant cardiologist Dr Oliver Gosling wrote: “During transfer to Musgrove Park Hospital, patient had ventricular fibrillation arrest with ambulance crew – regained return of spontaneous circulation after one shock.
“Patient underwent primary percutaneous coronary intervention and the first obtuse marginal artery was stented successfully.
“Transthoracic echo showed level of heart failure of 40% with extensive wall motion abnormalities.
“Mr Davies remained clinically stable and was discharged home after being advised to stop vaping and referred for cardiac rehabilitation.”
Stephen is convinced that vaping is the cause of his brush with death and hasn’t picked up a vape pen since.
He 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.
How safe are e-cigarettes in the UK?
In the UK, e-cigarettes are tightly regulated for safety and quality.
They’re not completely risk free, but they carry a small fraction of the risk of cigarettes.
E-cigarettes do not produce tar or carbon monoxide, two of the most harmful elements in tobacco smoke.
The liquid and vapour contain some potentially harmful chemicals also found in cigarette smoke, but at much lower levels.
While nicotine is the addictive substance in cigarettes, it’s relatively harmless.
Almost all of the harm from smoking comes from the thousands of other chemicals in tobacco smoke, many of which are toxic.
Nicotine replacement therapy has been widely used for many years to help people stop smoking and is a safe treatment.
There’s no evidence so far that vaping causes harm to other people around you.
This is in contrast to secondhand smoke from smoking, which is known to be very harmful to health.
“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: “We cannot comment on the care of individual patients, but the advice given by our clinicians would be tailored to the individual’s needs and medical condition.
“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
“Smokers are four times more likely to stop smoking with the use of nicotine replacement products and NHS support.
“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.
The production supervisor suffered a heart attack and cardiac arrest and claims doctors told him the vape is a likely cause[/caption]
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“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.”