North Carolina Mom Warns About Potential Dangers of Vaping After 15-Year-Old Stepson Dies

Charlene Zorn from Wilmington, North Carolina, is devastated by the death of her stepson, Solomon Wynn, who died earlier this month, but adamant others learn from her family's pain.

A North Carolina mother is warning about the potential dangers of vaping after her 15-year-old stepson died.

Charlene Zorn from Wilmington, North Carolina, is devastated by the death of her stepson, Solomon Wynn, who died earlier this month, but adamant others learn from her family's pain.

“My heart right now is in 10,000 pieces,” she tells Inside Edition Digital. “No child is going to suffer the way my child suffered. Nobody else can go through what I'm experiencing right now.”

Before Solomon got sick, she says he was a healthy athlete who no one knew was vaping. Then one day, he got a cough. His family thought it was bronchitis, but she says x-rays told a different story. "You've been vaping. Don't lie," the x-ray technician told the teen, Zorn recalls.  

“I've had so many people say to me, 'How did Solomon get (the vape)?' How does any kid get anything? A friend, a sibling, they stole it from a parent. And we are not parents that smoke,” Zorn recalls. “He collapsed on Friday the 16th, and we had to make the choice on Saturday night to take him off the ventilator.”

Solomon had developed symptoms associated with EVALI, or E-cigarette, or Vaping Product, Use Associated Lung Injury, Zorn says. EVALI is a serious medical condition in which a person's lungs become damaged from substances contained in e-cigarettes and vaping products, the Yale School of Medicine says. The cause of death listed on Solomon's death certificate was "vaping," his stepmother says. 

Zorn’s goal now is to make sure others are warned and educated.

“We now need to teach our children what an epidemic vaping is,” she says.

"(I've) probably have had a dozen people reach out to me and say they will never vape again after reading about Solomon. One of my son's friends admitted to me right in front of his mother that he was vaping, and I said to the mom, ‘Please, please schedule him a doctor's appointment and get a test x-ray done, because you don't know what's lurking in there,'" she says. 

According to Dr. Sherin Panacherry, vaping can be especially harmful to children.

“It's particularly dangerous for adolescents because their brains are still developing,” Panacherry tells Inside Edition Digital. “So when you're altering what should be the normal process by adding in these chemicals that go from your lungs to your brains, it makes for an addictive process and a harmful process at that.”

Vapes and e-cigarettes contain "a lot of chemicals ... that people are inhaling, and a lot of chemicals that we don't know what they do when they're inhaled," she says. "When you inhale it, it, it's kind of unknown what happens to the lungs. And actually all we do know about is that it's harmful."

Panacherry says she's found that there are several ways for kids to hide vaping from adults.

“Kids in general are always on their phones, and so Instagram sales are pretty a good source of where to get these things. And a lot of places even in person don't card and they don't require a lot of identification,” she says. “There are devices that look like USBs, so kids can take a few puffs even in class and teachers wouldn't know. There are even things where it's attached to a hoodie, and so it just looks like you're wearing a hoodie and then you can, there's a vape pen attached to it. So there's a lot of different ways to hide it.”

She urges parents to bring their children to the doctor if they suspect their kids might be vaping. 

“Definitely talking to a healthcare provider is a good idea. It in general, we can screen for symptoms,” Panacherry says. “A pediatric pulmonologist, we tend to do lung function testing with each visit, and that can usually provide some information right off the bat. And if there's something concerning on those results, then we can send for imaging as well.”

Zorn hopes that by sharing her story, it will help educate others about the potential harms of vaping.

“Somebody has to stop the vaping industry. Somebody has to put an end to this, and if that means I have to go out and be a dog at Pony Show and talk to every person, every single place I can go, bring it on baby. It's either this or crawl under my blanket and not come back out. So which is the healthier choice? Me getting under my blanket does Solomon no good,” she says.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, e-cigarettes are unsafe for kids and young adults. They say "most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, and nicotine is highly addictive and can harm adolescent brain development." They also warn that e-cigarettes can contain other harmful substances besides nicotine.

While the CDC says e-cigarettes have the potential to benefit adult smokers who are not pregnant if used a complete substitute for regular cigarettes, they say e-cigarettes “are not safe for youth, young adults and pregnant women, as well as adults who do not currently use tobacco products.”

Inside Edition Digital reached out to Vapor Technology Association for comment but did not get a reply.

“We now need to teach our children what an epidemic vaping is. It's a world health crisis, just like everything else,” Zorn says.

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