Gun Control vs. e-cigarettes: the health paradox in the United States
More people die in the United States from mass shootings than from electronic cigarettes and there is still no legislation about it.
In the United States, you are more likely to die in a mass shooting than by a shark bite, for example. However, weapons are so ingrained in the country's culture - and in its political machinery - that lobbying ends up being stronger than epidemics.
For example, during the last week of August, there were reports of a fatality apparently caused by the habitual use of electronic cigarettes. After this alert, at least 450 hospitalizations of patients with respiratory diseases were reported throughout the country supposedly due to the use of these devices. A few weeks later, there are 5 more reported deaths.
This alarm was enough for the various health organizations to activate an investigation into the possible causes that could generate this “epidemic” as the first lady Melania Trump called it.
The point is that in less than 30 days after turning on the red light, measures were taken.
The discussion about the use of electronic cigarettes in the United States began in 2007 when e-cigs entered the market. It was then that a struggle ensued between commercial houses and scientific research institutions, which divided public opinion.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned of the ignorance surrounding the toxicity of its components, which was supported at the time by various local associations.
In 2014, the first case of pneumonia due to the use of electronic cigarettes was reported in Spain and two years later, the World Health Organization issued a statement warning that electronic cigarettes are not a valid way of treating tobacco dependence because of the lack of solid scientific evidence.
In January 2018, the National Institute of Health published an extensive article with details about the inner workings of electronic cigarettes, along with the risks their usage presents to the human body. Again, the study reinforced the point that they are not a form of smoking cessation treatment.
Per usual, young people are the most curious population in the face of innovations and today, are the main users of e-cigs in the United States. Not to mention the commercial strategies of “added flavors,” the possibility of cannabinoid consumption and the use of techniques such as “drip” or “dripping,” which generate an intense sensation of pleasure, also appeal more to young people than any other target market.
In spite of all the existing information, it is not yet clear at this time whether the cause of the deaths and hospitalizations can be attributed to the compounds used in these e-cigs or derivatives of vitamin E in cannabinoid preparations. Regardless, it hasn’t stopped the government from taking action.
What’s the media scandal about then?
It is striking that a health issue widely informed by health institutions worldwide jumped to the headlines in the last three weeks. So much so, that it was the subject of a political meeting at the House White addressing the problem.
The American government’s resolution was short and effective: the removal of electronic cigarettes with flavors has been advised within a week of the first reports of deaths and hospitalizations; the FDA is pressured to take action, and a bill proposal is expected in no less than 30 days to completely withdraw electronic cigarettes from the U.S. market.
Not a month has passed by; the causes of the deaths and their relationship with the e-cigs are not clear, but the solution is already underway.
It seems that gun control in the United States has very complex political edges and lobbying has specific weight, so addressing the issue generates conflicts between legislators and authorities, leaving aside the impact that massive shootings and suicide have on the health of the population.
It’s interesting to see how, while the gun control debate became increasingly loud in the first weeks of August, the health problem triggered by electronic cigarettes jumped to the fore immediately.
There have been 33,000 firearms incidents so far this year, and 32 mass shootings are swept under the rug. The Latino dead in El Paso seem not to count, nor do those killed in the other violent episodes in recent months.
Not to mention, more than 50 percent of annual gun-related deaths in the United States corresponds to suicides.
The impact of the use of weapons in the country remains an issue surrounded by a political color and the impact on mental health has been forgotten.
The National Rifle Association’s lobbying and the unconditional rally of Second Amendment fans well justify the importance of bringing up an old health problem that has been under discussion for years to overshadow a critical issue of the 2020 elections.