The DailyMail published a horror story about 18-year-old Chance Ammirata and his experience with the Juul, a popular vaping device. Chance, from south Florida, suffered a collapsed lung which he reportedly claims the fault on the Juul, per his doctors. The teen claimed to only vape 1 pod every two days, which Juul claims is nicotine-equivalent to a pack of cigarettes.
Chance quickly went viral on Twitter, posting daily pictures and videos of his post-operation recovery in the hospital, while vehemently advocating against Juul and vaping. Most would believe this is where this story ends, but looking a bit deeper uncovers quite a different set of facts.
As soon as the DailyMail article dropped, several other national and local outlets picked up the story and Chance gained a great amount of Twitter reaction. As most teens probably would, Chance used this opportunity to cross-promote his Instagram, Snapchat and Youtube accounts. He also started a Change.org petition titled “An end to vaping” and advertised it frequently.
A quick look at Chance’s petition shows that it’s co-sponsored by Parents Against Vaping cigarettes (or PAVe), a 501c (4) non-profit. PAVe quickly jumped on the virality, advertising the petition and posting about Chance’s story on their digital media.
Before taking a closer look at PAVe, it would be beneficial to first confirm Chance’s Juul medical emergency:
It’s no question the teen suffered a collapsed lung, which is a serious medical condition, and everyone should wish Chance a speedy recovery. However, blaming the Juul is just not being honest, if not outright deceitful. Sifting through DailyMail’s somewhat hysterical fluff post, you’ll find several more writeups from more trusted outlets, such as South Florida’s local ABC/NBC:
He was rushed to the hospital after he said he experienced what felt like a heart attack. But eventually doctors told him that he had a “bleb” in his lung, and the smoking of his Juul had caused it to pop.
“If they inhale too rapidly, that weakness in the area of the lung may pop, and that will cause a pneumothorax,” said Robert Hawkes, a physician assistant professor at FGCU.
Medical experts worry it’s happening more to kids who don’t see vaping as harmful.
The ‘bleb’ in his lung that popped was already a pre-existing condition. Blebs are a mutation of the lung and often hereditary. As Robert Hawkes, PA-C, outlines, the bleb can be ruptured by rapid inhalation, causing a collapsed lung. Ultimately, putting the blame on the Juul for the collapsed lung seems to be intentionally deceitful when the true cause was rapid inhalation. Could Chance’s viral social media campaign against the Juul be based on misinformation and distortion of the facts? Absolutely.
Then we come back to PAVe, or Parents Against Vaping and E-Cigs, the non-profit that capitalized on the whole chronicles. A quick look at PAVe’s advisory board reveals some interesting people, including a chancellor of a private school charging $46,000 a year in tuition for kindergarten. Journalist Jim McDonald further researched the board members, showing frequent high dollar galas and luncheons hosted in the Hamptons. PAVe’s cofounder, Meredith Berkman, has a history of being aggressively litigious, penning a $50 million lawsuit.
Meredith Berkman claims that because the snack contained three times more fat than advertised, she suffered “weight gain … mental anguish, outrage and indignation.
Jim has written a great piece more on PAVe, which you can read titled “Meet the Rich Moms Who Want to Ban Vaping”. The anti-vaping rich moms are only part of this story but are necessary to showcase due to their near-instant attachment to Chance Ammirata’s medical emergency founded on deception.
It’s been over a week since the internet rallied around Chance, and he’s been quite busy. Today, he’s so far Tweeted 11 times, roughly a dozen Instagram stories, mostly railing against the Juul and promoting his sponsored petition. He’s changed his Twitter bio to link to his Youtube channel- specifically a video about exploring an abandoned hospital with an ouija board and something about ghosts.
Chance was called out about his story by one Twitter user, @MikeDeeKing, who responded with skepticism and a screenshot of one Tweet Chance made back in late July which poked a big hole in the timeline of his claims. Chance immediately removed the Tweet in question, however, it remains archived on Google’s cache for all to see.
To conclude, all should wish Chance Ammirata a speedy recovery from a real medical emergency. However, the story was not based on real facts, real statements, and real life. The internet, as usual, is not always as it seems. Digital hysteria propagated by misinformation is a real problem. In this case, you have a teenager eager to go viral teaming up with a powerful anti-vape lobbying group. That’s a terrible combination to have.
Alexander Craig | Twitter