Brendan Mooney is a communications senior and Mustang News columnist. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.
Recently, the Trump administration declared a ban on fruit flavored e-tobacco products in the wake of several vaping related deaths. This response is both appropriate and necessary – when lives are at stake, especially those of adolescents, action must be taken. Yet while I support this ban, I am also deeply frustrated by it.
In response to the mass shooting that occurred in El Paso, Texas, Trump responded with a long statement on August 5. In his response, he focused on the identification of early warning signs, the glorification of violence in our society, mental health laws and finally that firearms must not make their way into the hands of those who may potentially commit these acts. This shooting, which killed 22 people and injured many more, brought forth grief and the loss of many lives, but no ban on the device that was responsible for the killing.
In the wake of activism by Greta Thunberg and the continuous emergence of scientific research on manmade climate change, the president responded by labeling climate change as a “hoax” and publishing a mocking tweet directed toward Thunberg.
At the core, vaping, domestic terrorism and climate change are unrelated issues – yet they are related through the way in which our lawmakers and the general public responds. I applaud our administration for taking immediate action in the creation of vaping bans. I also recognize this instance as one of the first times we have witnessed immediate action when lives are at stake in several years. It seems as though polarization of the general public is often the culprit behind a lack of immediate action. Through writing this article I hope to depolarize these three issues, and see them for what they are: public endangerment that calls for immediate action.
I am frustrated by the lack of immediate action on issues that have claimed thousands of more lives than vaping.
I am not arguing that a ban on flavored e-tobacco should not happen, or that these lives lost are not worth the creation of new laws. I am frustrated by the lack of immediate action on issues that have claimed thousands of more lives than vaping. I am frustrated that my mother, a high school teacher, must have bulletproof windows in her chemistry lab. I am frustrated that I, a 21-year-old male, contemplate whether or not bringing a child into this world is child abuse due to the exponentially changing climate that supports all life on this earth.
All three of these issues have resulted in innocent deaths that are a product of consumer goods available to the general public. As aforementioned, the vaping related deaths have been linked to fruit-flavored nicotine products that attract non-smoking teens. Domestic terrorism, although a product of many factors, is made possible by lack of gun control laws and widespread distribution of firearms. Climate change is accelerating through the high output of carbon dioxide and other emissions from cars, generation of electricity, manufacturing of products and transportation of goods.
Here we see consumer goods causing a large amount of death, from 33 vaping-related deaths according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), to 283 mass shootings in only 244 days according to the Gun Violence Archive (GVA), to an estimation of 150,000 climate change-related deaths yearly according to the Health and Environment Linkages Initiative (HELI). What separates these issues is the way in which we respond and attempt to stop them.
In the case of vaping products, fruit-flavored nicotine was immediately taken off of the shelf, but with the other two issues we have only seen an increase of products as a way in which people can protect themselves.
This fall, as kids were getting their back to school shopping done, the U.S. saw bullet-proof binders and backpacks hit the market. The U.S. also saw many people and organizations, such as the National Riffle Association (NRA), explain that an increase in guns would help civilians protect themselves. In terms of climate change, we have seen the emergence of companies such as Tesla and and products such as metal straws. Instead of limiting emissions, creating clean air standards, adhering to the Paris treaty and supporting sustainable development, the response has been to give people who can afford to make a change the option to do so.
In both cases, the mass shooting and climate change response, the solutions only make the problem worse. Bullet-proof binders and backpacks create a rhetoric that says this will keep happening. Increasing firearms increases likelihood of gun related accidents and perpetuates violent acts. When taking the life-cycle of a Tesla being built, shipped and eventually retired, the carbon footprint is still incredibly high. It is undoubtedly a step forward, but only to those who are wealthy and cognizant of their carbon footprint.
Let’s imagine that immediate action had been taken on these issues as it had been in the case of vaping. Firearms would be taken off the shelf, manufacturing of firearms would decrease, and with less supply, those who desire a firearm would have to work much harder to prove they are stable enough to own one and would pay a much higher price. In the realm of climate change, the U.S. would acknowledge the research, news media would not promote fabricated controversy and clean air standards would increase. This would push the U.S. to incentivize the use of renewable energy, making it cheaper and accessible to all citizens. Although I cannot say for-sure, it seems as though these two responses would do a much better job at saving innocent lives.