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Teen says using unregulated vaping products almost killed him

Vaping is a popular trend among teenagers, but some are worried it can lead to negative side effects.

Michigan became the first state to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes in an effort to prevent young people from using them.

The Herdman family is now fighting for more regulation in Pennsylvania after their son, Caleb Herdman, went from healthy to on life support.

“We were in the hospital for 18 days,” says Herdman’s mom, Shannon Herdman. “He was placed on an ECMO machine through a bedside surgery, and that is their last resort option for people in respiratory or heart failure.”

Caleb Herdman says he started vaping to be cool. He says he never would have thought a year later, something he never thought would affect his life would change it forever.

“It all started as a group mentality, that if I didn’t do it I wasn’t cool,” says Herdman.

6 News talked with local vape shop owners who warn about the dangers of buying e-liquid online from an unlicensed distributor. They say because the FDA can’t crack down on what exactly is inside that liquid, no one can know what chemicals or pesticides you are putting into your body.

They say, however, the FDA does regulate what is in their stores. That is why they say no one has gotten sick from buying their products.

Herdman bought his vape pen and liquid online from a third-party distributor and says he didn’t know what was in it.

“It is heavily laced with pesticides to really get that flavor in there,” says Herdman.

Now, Shannon Herdman says something needs to be done. She says it shouldn’t be this easy for her 16-year-old to buy something that almost killed him.

“It shouldn’t be that easy to get something that has been equated to cigarettes,” says Herdman. “There are regulations on cigarettes. You have to show ID. You have to be able to show your age. He could just go online, place an order and have it shipped to his grandparents’ house. It was that simple.”

Today, Caleb Herdman is adjusting to his new normal, living with nearly a third less lung capacity than his friends have.

“I’m short of breath very easily. I can’t snowboard. There are a lot of things I can’t do. I have a lot of limitations,” says Herdman. “I can’t run yet.”

Herdman and his family are also handing out bracelets to raise awareness of the dangers of vaping unregulated products. They want to get the message out: “Know the risks you face. Every hit. Every time.”

Rachel Prichard/6WJAC