Urgent vaping warning after Queensland man's terrifying death

An autopsy has confirmed a decade-long vaping habit is likely the reason behind a Queensland man's death.

Peter Hansen swapped cigarettes for vapes some 10 years ago, after his step-daughter was due to give birth and she said she didn't want her child to be around second-hand smoke.

With a prescription, Mr Hansen began importing nicotine vaping products from overseas and his wife, Pam Ashdown, told the ABC he was constantly vaping.

Ms Ashdown said it seemed the vape her husband was using was "better for him", though she doesn't believe he used it as much as he used to smoke cigarettes, but it was always around.

Last October, Mr Hansen and Ms Ashdown were in the Whitsundays when he became out of breath.

Peter Hansen, 71, died last year after vaping for 10 years. Source: ABC
Peter Hansen, 71, died last year after vaping for 10 years. Source: ABC

He was taken to a local hospital before being transferred to Mackay Base Hospital. Three days after being in intensive care, Mr Hansen's family made the decision to turn off his life support.

He died age 71.

ABC's 7.30 revealed an autopsy showed Mr Hansen's cause of death was an acute lung injury and his condition was consistent with the criteria of EVALI, an illness seen among vape and e-cigarette users.

"It's just coming out now how harmful it can be, so I think we just need to push and let people know that it can cause death," Ms Ashdown told the program.

Mr Hansen was treated by ICU doctor Sean McManus, who said the 71-year-old was "clearly in severe distress" while in the hospital, resulting in him being placed in an induced coma and on a ventilator.

He told 7.30 he saw cystic lesions on the apex of Mr Hansen's lung and he added that he does not believe Mr Hansen's history of smoking contributed to his hospitalisation.

The autopsy found Mr Hansen's lungs were "red, airless and very heavy" and there were areas of inflammation which was consistent with a reaction to an inhaled agent.

What are the vaping laws in Australia?

In Australia, it is illegal to use, buy or sell nicotine e-cigarettes without a prescription.

Lung Foundation Australia says many people buy their vape or e-cigarettes online, like Mr Hansen, because each state or territory, bar WA, permits vapes or e-cigarettes to be sold, provided there is no nicotine.

From October last year, it became illegal for anyone in Australia to buy nicotine vaping products overseas without a prescription.

From 2015 to 2019 there was a 96 per cent increase in young Australians vaping. Source: PA Wire
From 2015 to 2019 there was a 96 per cent increase in young Australians vaping. Source: PA Wire

The Therapeutic Goods Administration said this was due to a "significant increase" in young Australians buying vaping products.

There was a 96 per cent increase in young people using e-cigarettes between 2015 and 2019.

"The changes strike a balance between the need to prevent young people from taking up nicotine vaping products while allowing current smokers to access these products for smoking cessation on their doctor's advice," the TGA said.

The long-term effects of vaping are unclear, Lung Foundation Australia says, though it says vaping is "unsafe and potentially dangerous".

According to the ABC, Ms Ashdown wants health authorities to review how vaping products are being provided to patients.

"It's very sad, very lonely, and I miss him every day," Ms Ashdown said.

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