“No responsibility of government is more fundamental than the responsibility of maintaining the highest standard of ethical behavior for those who conduct the public business.” — John F. Kennedy

Many states report vaping-related illnesses, especially in young Americans. More deaths and more cases are anticipated. States and counties contemplate regulations. People are engrossed with vaping-related news. Vaping has more than a thousand years of history. The concept remains the same, but evolution into sophisticated methods accelerated within the past few decades. What’s changed? Why the panic about vaping since summer?

Within a short time, more than 500 Americans were diagnosed with a vaping-related illness. The FDA analyzes more than 100 samples to see how various chemicals could cause lung injury. FDA also investigates the cause of disease and supply chain related events. No particular brand, vaping product and chemical substance are identified consistently in the afflicted and there is perhaps no causal link with lung injury for any product.

That’s the problem: failure to protect public health due to acts of commission and omission. In the American market today, products are consumed without much testing and regulations. Most American adults have used an oral dietary supplement. These are often acquired from local supermarkets for health and wellness benefits. A recent summary of evidence on more than 800 oral dietary supplements found they potentially cause more harm than benefit especially from misuse, overuse or interaction with other medications along with detrimental influence on existing disease conditions. Many components of these supplements were never approved or tested by agencies like the FDA. Vaping-related products /diet supplements and manufacturers are influential.

Reports of links between vaping product manufacturers and political parties are available for public scrutiny. Politicians with alleged links to manufacturers appear as saviors by supporting bans and regulations on these products. Some expressed frustration with the FDA not acting soon enough. The First Lady tweeted about the vaping epidemic and the White House proposed a limited ban on certain products till FDA approval is received. Better late than never? Or too little, too late?

Governments have much to answer: how did these products proliferate so exponentially that many Americans have experience with vaping? Were products approved? How many products were tested or why weren’t they? Who benefitted from unscrupulous product sales? What remedial actions are planned? Will policies be implemented or are they a smokescreen till the next epidemic? What market forces violate public health?

While we find solutions, school and college administrators should share information with young people. Schools can ensure we don’t lose young people to vaping — especially when many facilities are near smoking-related shops.

The government must setup a panel with public, scientists, physicians, policy advocates, economists and other stakeholders to investigate and suggest practices for regulation of emerging consumable products that have exponential proliferation and incessant growth in today’s market. Could politicians allow fair and independent evaluations for consumer products? Our neighbors with selected restrictions (Canada) or vaping bans (Mexico, Colombia, Cambodia and Venezuela) are doing better. We need rigorous restrictions.

About the author: Jagdish Khubchandani is a health science professor at Ball State University.

Recommended for you