On Sept. 11, a day on which we memorialize lives lost to senseless violence, the administration announced plans to ban most flavored e-cigarettes after a rash of vaping-related lung illnesses claimed six lives. The exact cause of illness has yet to be pinpointed, but the looming threat apparently spooked the Trump administration into rapid action. As of this week, the Department of Health and Human Services is publicizing its intention to “clear the market” of flavored vapes, hoping to finalize a plan in the next several weeks that would likely go into effect a month later.
“We can’t have our youth be so affected,” the president said as he announced the new initiative from the Oval Office. Ah, the youth! They must be protected at speed! Six deaths and new policy is barreling down the tracks! Thank you for keeping our country safe!
It’s something of a shock, then, to remember that this administration and the Republicans that back it can’t even bring themselves to cast a sideways glance at a gun, even though firearms cause an average of 1,500 children’s deaths each year. According to the University of Michigan, middle- and high-school-age children are now more likely to die as the result of a firearm injury than from any other single cause of death. Every day an average of 100 Americans are killed by guns. What about the youths affected by that?
After last month’s mass shooting in Odessa, Tex., (the third mass shooting in August alone), Trump told reporters that “we’re looking at a lot of different things” to control gun violence. “We’re looking at a lot of different bills, ideas, concepts.” Naturally, no legislation supported by Republicans has appeared — or is likely to. After all, Trump said two weeks earlier that there was “no political appetite” for banning assault-style weapons — in contrast to the enormous political appetite for going after marshmallow-flavored vape cartridges?
To be clear, e-cigarette danger is afoot. There’s been a massive uptick in teen vaping over the past several years, and while it may help some adults quit smoking, it’s clear that teens vaping for fun have picked up a foolish, addictive and potentially dangerous habit.
But common sense should tell all of us that there are bigger fish to fry. Too bad it’s a message the White House refuses to receive.