The Face of Fear?: The Vaping "Epidemic"
What is An Epidemic?
A continuation of a series of op-eds for the FDA Vaping Ban:
“I use the word epidemic with great care,” says Gottlieb. “E-cigs have become an almost ubiquitous ‒ and dangerous ‒ trend among teens. The disturbing and accelerating trajectory of use we’re seeing in youth, and the resulting path to addiction, must end. It’s simply not tolerable. I’ll be clear. The FDA won’t tolerate a whole generation of young people becoming addicted to nicotine as a tradeoff for enabling adults to have unfettered access to these same products.”
Epidemic is a word that immediately sparks panic. Or it should. It implies widespread outbreaks, pandemics, even plagues. Teen vaping is being called an epidemic by the Commissioner, the Chief, of the FDA, Dr. Scott Gottlieb. And he should know, right? He is a physician and the leader of one of the nation’s top federal agencies on health.
Therefore, reason would have me to believe that Dr. Gottlieb must also be concerned about the other epidemics that plague our youth in the U.S.A.
The Faces of Youth Epidemics
Prescription Drug Addiction
Gottlieb surely knows that 26% of teens are abstaining from all substances including alcohol, cannabis, and tobacco. This is up 5% from 1976.
SAMHSA (The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) reports that 6.2% of youth, ages 12 - 17, used pain relievers non-medically. The rate increases to 11.8% for young adults age 18 - 25. Prescription drug misuse among 12-17 year olds is now around 2.6%. Emergency departments can expect up to 74 ER visits per day for prescription or nonprescription pain relievers alone.
More Americans report using prescription drugs than the combined total usage of cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines. That doesn’t begin to delve into the problem of teen codeine abuse, aka “lean/purple drank.”
SAMHSA ends their advisory on prescription drug abuse by stating, “The problem of prescription drug abuse and overdose is complex, involving insufficient oversight to curb inappropriate prescribing, insurance and pharmacy benefit policies, and a belief by many people that prescription drugs are not dangerous.”
Youth alcohol usage and activities have continue to remain at higher percentages among teen substance abuse. In a 2017 study, 33% of teens in 12th grade, 20% of 10th graders, and 8% of 8th graders had drank alcohol in the past month.
Teen drinking is so popular, it was made light of in the 2003 chart-topping song, “Tipsy” by musical artist J-Kwon. The song peaked at number 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, and even peaked at number for UK R&B singles. The song’s most popular line is what starts the track off:
“Teen drinking is very bad. Yo, I got a fake ID though.”
I have faith that Dr. Gottlieb must certainly be hard at work drafting ordinances against the Alcohol Abuse Epidemic catered by alcohol marketing and alcohol flavors as well, which affect both youth and adults (especially women).
In all seriousness, what truly quantifies as an epidemic should be touched on with extreme care. News organizations such as USA Today have publicly warned against the “fearmongering” in the vaping debate.
Commentators on articles about the FDA’s vape ban such as this article from the New York Times ask important questions such as where does the true blame lie in vape products being distributed to minors.
“Isn’t it up to the retailers to check IDs to prevent sales to minors, and up to parents to know what their kids are doing, and up to schools and communities to educate kids about the utter pointlessness of nicotine addiction? Why does the manufacturer have to solve this issue?”
Jim McDonald of Vaping360 holds the belief that preventing teens from wanting to participate in adult activities is an unrealistic and is pointless when looking at the lack of success of such prohibition-esque crusades in the past.
I propose a shift in focus on what should be banned in the US. The true perpetrators of death and despair in our society. Culprits such as:
- Ants: 30 People a year are killed by ants. We must ban picnicking, because that’s how you get ants.
- Deer: Bambis are deadlier than vapes and sharks, killing 120 people each year. Ban deer? No. It’s about time for deer season anyway. Get ready.
- Icicles: 15 people are killed by icicle-related deaths per year. Global Warming? Hah! You can’t fool me Sub-Zero. No more going outside during snow season.
- Vending Machines: 2-4 Americans are killed by vending machines per year, with 1,700 vending machine related injuries per year. We must stop the reign of quick snack attacks.
- Black Friday: There have been 10 deaths and 111 injuries from Black Friday madness since 2006. Up from the 7 deaths and 98 injuries reported in 2015. End Black Friday. And beware. Soccer. Moms.
Vaping deaths? One. So what are the true epidemics in America today? That is for you to decide.