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article imageOp-Ed: Guns and vaping — The numbers do matter in a public health crisis

By Karen Graham     Sep 21, 2019 in Politics
The numbers continue to rise - not just the deaths and illnesses attributed to vaping e-cigarettes - but more alarming is the number of gun deaths in the United States. Yet, in our ignorance, we are more concerned over the loss of e-cigarettes,
A bipartisan group of lawmakers is urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to pull almost all e-cigarettes off the market, including market leader Juul, according to CNBC.
Senators Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., sent FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless a letter Friday pushing the FDA to remove all pod- and cartridge-based e-cigarettes until the agency can review their safety.
To date, there have been over 530 lung illnesses and at least eight deaths reported in the U.S. Some people are sure the problem is with THC- filled cartridges - while others say no one particular cartridge or e-cigarette brand has been deemed to be the culprit.
Electonic cigarettes
Electonic cigarettes
Michael Dorausch (CC BY-SA 2.0)
“The proliferation of cartridge-based e-cigarettes — and their ever-increasing popularity with children — is primarily due to the FDA’s years-long refusal to regulate any e-cigarette devices or impose common-sense design standards preventing against adulteration, despite having the authority to do so,” the senators wrote in their letter.
The facts concerning e-cigarettes and cigarettes
The CDC has compiled an extensive database related to vaping illnesses and deaths reported from 38 states and 1 U.S. territory:
* Nearly three fourths (72 percent) of cases are male
* Two thirds (67 percent) of cases are 18 to 34 years old
* 16 percent of cases are under 18 years and 17 percent are 35 years or older
All patients have a reported history of e-cigarette product use, and no consistent evidence of an infectious cause has been discovered. Therefore, the suspected cause is a chemical exposure.
However, the CDC points out that cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States, accounting for more than 480,000 deaths every year, or about 1 in 5 deaths.
Cigarette smoking causes ten deaths per minute
Cigarette smoking causes ten deaths per minute
Before e-cigarettes began to gain in popularity due to the introduction of fruit and candy-flavored varieties, teen smoking was actually on a downward trend, according to the CDC. However, from 2017 to 2018, the number of middle and high school students who said they had used a tobacco product within the previous 30 days rose by 38.3 percent, according to a new report from the CDC.
Looking at gun death numbers
In a report released last week by the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee Democratic Staff, it was noted that U.S. teens and young adults, ages 15-24, are 50 times more likely to die by gun violence than they are in other economically advanced countries.
The report is an eye-opener, and the facts are astounding. The human costs – the loss of husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, children, grandparents, teachers, police officers and others – is incalculable.
Handguns are displayed at the Taurus International Firearms booth at  a gun show in 2011 in Las Vega...
Handguns are displayed at the Taurus International Firearms booth at a gun show in 2011 in Las Vegas
There is also a substantial economic cost, the report said, with directly measurable costs that include "lost income and spending, employer costs, police, and criminal justice responses and health care treatment" and indirect costs that include "reduced quality of life due to pain and suffering."
Here's an interesting tidbit to think about - It is difficult to measure the economic toll caused by gun violence because of a decades-old federal prohibition on funding for research into the problem. Personally, that is asinine for reasons too numerous to count.
This came about in 1996 when Congress added a little-known amendment to spending legislation that prohibits the use of federal funds to advocate or promote gun control. However, in a spending package last year, lawmakers conceded the CDC could conduct research on the causes of gun violence, although no money was allocated for such research.
Gee, do ya think the NRA might have had anything to do with this joke of an amendment? But, let's look at some facts, shall we?
* 39,773 Americans died from gun violence in 2017.
* The total economic cost of gun violence in the U.S. exceeds $229 billion annually
* The year 2017 marked the first time firearms killed more people than motor vehicle accidents.
* 60 percent of all gun deaths in the U.S. are suicides
* Compared to a young white male, a young black male is 20 times more likely to die from a firearm-related homicide.
The psychology behind bans and stockpiling
I read this morning that vapers are rushing to stockpile e-cigarettes before any bans go into effect. This concern was echoed by Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, a nonprofit advocacy group, who commended nicotine addicts for preparing for the worst.
"It's a moral imperative to disobey unethical laws and they're going to fight and not relapse back to smoking," Conley said. "These are the type of hardcore former smokers who if they can't access nicotine in a way that they enjoy, they are heavily at risk of going back to smoking."
Yes, this may be true, but it doesn't explain the increase in teenage vapers, does it? And no one has addressed the black market sale of vaping products. Banning all e-cigarettes may save eight additional lives lost to vaping, but what about the 480,000 deaths attributed to cigarette smoking annually?
Mass shootings like the one at a Walmart in El Paso  Texas have forced US law enforcement to reckon ...
Mass shootings like the one at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas have forced US law enforcement to reckon with a broad threat from white nationalist extremists
The "Dirty Harry" movie franchise of the 1970s inspired the movement to ban the sale of handguns. Yet the actual response resulted in the sale of even more handguns. especially for large-caliber revolvers like the Smith & Wesson used by the "Dirty Harry" character Clint Eastwood.
The same goes with the 1980s ban by the federal government on polymer-based firearms that could be "invisible" to X-ray machines at airports, All this did was increase the sale of the firearms. Same goes with the AR-15 used in the Sandy Hook school shooting. The price of the firearm skyrocketed.
Bottom line? We really can't, and should not hold eight vaping deaths in one hand and 39,773 gun deaths in the other hand and say to the American public those eight deaths are more important than the tens of thousands of gun deaths we have every year.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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