If you ask me, the Juuling trend has by now been outdated for a while. Yet, somehow, I still see people gladly inhaling the flavoursome smoke from their little pen look-a-like on a daily basis, not knowing exactly what they’re pumping in and out of their lungs. Just a few days ago, a series of severe lung disease cases appeared in the U.S. and were quickly linked to vaping. The headlines are more than alarming, affirming that e-cigarettes are to be blamed for this disease. Yet after researching the matter, it is clear that no one knows anything for sure. So what is this lung disease, and is it really connected to vaping?
According to public health officials in the U.S., hundreds of people have suffered from a severe lung illness, and 5 people died from it over the past three months. In many of these cases, healthy people, sometimes in their teens or early 20s, were affected by the multistate outbreak of pulmonary disease associated with e-cigarette products. Because all of the cases are related to people who confirmed they vape, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are focusing on trying to figure out which specific part of vaping is dangerous.
Early symptoms of the disease include coughing, fever, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue. A simple cough quickly turns into extreme shortness of breath and leads people to urgent hospitalisation. Public health officials announced that “anyone who has shortness of breath that lasts more than a few hours or becomes severe should seek medical attention quickly.” On lung scans, the illness looks like a bacterial or viral pneumonia that has attacked the lungs, but no infection has been found in testing.
E-cigarettes have now been around for years, though, so why is this outbreak only happening now? News outlets feed readers with two different theories. The first one, presented only by some health officials, is that a dangerous chemical called vitamin E acetate has been added into the pipeline of some vaping products. The second theory is that e-cigarettes have always been this dangerous but that doctors only realised recently where the disease comes from due to vaping’s recent growing popularity. Both theories, however, are still surrounded by uncertainty, with specialists guessing what to them might seem most plausible.
The illness is clearly spreading across the U.S., but could it also be affecting other countries, such as the U.K.? According to figures by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), between 2015 and 2018 the number of people over 16 vaping in the U.K. shot up from 3.7 percent of the population to 6.3 percent. As I previously said, young people are still vaping, Juuling, you name it. Yet according to Martin Dockrell, head of tobacco control at Public Health England, Brits can all relax. Apparently, a distinction between vaping in the U.S. and the U.K. should be made.
Screen Shot spoke to the co-founder of the association Parents Against Vaping, Dorian Fuhrman, about vaping regulations in the U.S., the association’s work, and how teenagers are the main target customers. “97 percent of kids in the U.S. who vape use flavours, so what we try to do is to support legislation,” Fuhrman told Screen Shot, adding that, “In America, the FDA banned all flavoured cigarettes in 2009 but only left menthol cigarettes on the market, which was a big mistake. So now, there’s no reason for them to allow flavoured e-cigarettes because it’s the same issue, it’s the flavours that attract the kids.” In the U.K., the nicotine levels available in vape liquids are much lower, while in the U.S., as Fuhrman explains, “there’s no limit on the nicotine levels.”
What most people aren’t aware of while reading the recent headlines is that most cases in the U.S. had been linked to people using illegal vaping fluid—some homemade ones, some bought on the black market, some containing THC, or synthetic cannabinoids-like spice. In other words, Americans have been smoking something else than your typical vape pen.
That said, it’s always better to be safe than sorry, and while Martin Dockrell makes a clear distinction between both countries, many vapers in the U.K. also use vaping fluids containing THC. The NHS’ website states that, “In the UK e-cigarettes are tightly regulated for safety and quality,” but that many of the vaping liquids containing THC are imported legally.
Whether the liquids available illegally in the U.K. contain vitamin E acetate or not remains unclear. As for whether e-cigarettes really are the cause of lung disease, well, no one seems to be sure of that either. So, just to be on the safe side, let’s stop vaping, at least until we finally get some accurate information, or least until we forget about the multistate epidemic in the U.S. and carry on with our destructive lifestyles.
Anti-vaxxers, also known as people who are opposed to vaccination, typically a parent who refuses to vaccinate their child, must be stopped. The anti-vaccination movement, which continues to grow, is a main source of worry for scientists who are sure vaccines work, but it should also be one for the rest of us. Measles (among other diseases) is on the rise once again, and reviews found that there is a correlation between the two problems. Here’s what is wrong with anti-vaxxers and what needs to be done.
The anti-vaccination movement comes from the idea that there’s a connection between vaccination and autism, as well as other brain disorders. This idea rests upon no scientific evidence, but as you’ve probably realised by now, the same can be said about many other beliefs in our increasingly disbelieving world.
Measles is a disease more contagious than Tuberculosis or Ebola, yet it is easily preventable with a vaccine that barely costs anything. When measles was declared to be eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, everyone thought—rightly so—that it was thanks to vaccines. And yet here we are, in 2019, with parents knowingly withholding their children from something that could save them from potential brain damage and death. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2018 measles cases in the U.S. went up six-fold while they tripled across Europe.
The situation is so bad that even Trump, who only a year ago ‘flirted’ with notorious anti-vaxxers and repeatedly linked vaccinations to autism, declared that people “have to get their shots”. In other words, if even Trump takes these outbreaks seriously, this is not something to disregard. This entirely preventable emergency that started in March this year should be a lesson to everyone about how unfortunate a world without vaccines would be.
A few months after the outbreak, anti-vaxxers are still going strong, lowering herd immunity quickly. In the U.K., Prince Charles’ mission to save homeopathy is reenforcing the public’s distrust in medical science. How? By promoting homeopathy as a miracle remedy, one that hasn’t been provided by the NHS since 2017 and has been described by its chief executive Simon Stevens as “at best a placebo and a misuse of scarce NHS funds”.
The anti-vaccination movement comes exactly from the growing public distrust of vaccines, but also in science, in the government, and in the pharmaceutical industry more broadly. So what can we do, really, apart from making vaccines mandatory for everyone? Tackling fake news and misinformation, especially fake medical news on social media, would be a first step.
In March 2016, even Robert De Niro dabbled in this affair by promoting the anti-vaccination documentary Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe and pushing for the film to be featured in the Tribeca Film Festival. A few days after, De Niro decided not to include the film, most likely realising the larger-scale impact that this could have on the country’s already declining health.
Lastly, it shouldn’t be forgotten that more people are involved in the whole vaccination drama and therefore should be held accountable. Health professionals have to take accountability or be made to do so in this matter as well. We need to ensure that doctors giving shots are equipped with concrete information and available to talk to those who have concerns, so that parents can feel like they’re making well-informed decisions.
Conspiracy theories are fine and should be left alone to thrive on Reddit as long as they’re not hurting people in the process. People that don’t make the effort to promote vaccination are unknowingly allowing anti-vaxxers to do their damage. Anti-vaxxers should be called out—by the government, by doctors, by you, me—so that putting kids’ vaccination ‘on hold’ becomes shocking and taboo again. It’s a matter of life and death.