A group of prominent public-health experts on the vape crisis in the United States had a message to share in one of the country’s leading academic journals this week: Don’t panic.
The op-ed published Thursday in Science, perhaps the most substantial and forceful academic memo on the matter to date, is an attempt to address and reframe a narrative that has spun out of control. Alarm morphed to panic this summer following a spike of vaping-related illnesses (now largely linked to illicit THC carts) and an ongoing “epidemic” of teenage e-cigarette use, the blame for which has constantly fallen on the powerhouse JUUL, despite its denials of targeting teens. (The piece was co-authored by some of the leading scholars in tobacco control—Amy Fairchild of Ohio State; Ronald Bayer of Columbia; Cheryl Healton and David Abrams of New York University; and James Curran of Emory. Three of them are the deans of some of the most prestigious public-health schools in the country.)
Bayer and his colleagues write that allowing combustible cigarettes to stay on the market, but “restricting access and appeal among less harmful vaping products out of an abundance of caution,” would be a massive setback for public health globally—not a benefit. Instead they advocate a harm-reduction approach, which has been embraced in the United Kingdom and found success there, in part because the nation enforces nicotine caps and advertising restrictions. This kind of tactic rests heavily on the assumption that nicotine itself will not be eradicated from the world anytime soon.
“In public health, there are always trade-offs,” Bayer said. “You have to weigh both the risks and benefits.”
The authors call for careful policy and regulation, such as some sort of “product monitoring system” and add that, “if the [U.S. is] going to take policy action on flavors, menthol in combustible products must be the first target.” But, as Bayer emphasized, the crucial conclusions and recommendations they make are for taxing vaping products—enough to keep them out of the hands of teenagers, but lower than those on combustible cigarettes so as not to discourage current smokers to switch. They also suggest federally raising the legal age to purchase nicotine products to 21.
Bayer and his co-writers don’t harp much on what attracts minors to experimenting with vaping, but more and more evidence has suggested it has much less to do with flavors than kids being kids. Just last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released some data from its annual National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS), which noted that a majority of kids who tried e-cigs cited mere “curiosity” as their motivation. (Flavors themselves came in a distant third.) In general, critics slammed the NYTS for being both imprecise and incomplete: The student respondents didn’t have an option to choose “wanting nicotine” as a primary reason for experimenting with e-cigarettes, and, as some harm-reduction opponents have already pointed out, e-cigarettes are not even tobacco products, since there is no tobacco in them.
Are you a current or former JUUL employee, or do you know something about the company or vaping industry or weed policy that we should? Using a non-work device, you can contact Alex Norcia securely via Signal at 201-429-7024 or email at email@example.com.
But even if Bayer and his colleagues can assertively present clear evidence and refute already-established preconceptions, that doesn’t mean people are going to listen. Particularly if the misinformation has solidified into a firmly held belief. Because the vaping crisis has now become politicized in the most modern way possible, a criss-crossing of elements that have come to define our era. Notably, there’s our distrust of longstanding, corrupt institutions: A contingent of bipartisan elected officials have insisted vaping is essentially just another ploy by Big Tobacco, a claim that has become difficult to refute since Altria, a Big Tobacco producer, purchased a 35 percent stake in JUUL at the end of 2018. And then there’s a relatively niche-yet-energized bloc of voters—enough vapers, reportedly, that could swing elections in 2020 and beyond.
The battle for public opinion on e-cigarettes, then, has mainly fallen into two distinct camps: those who recognize that the rapid increase in teenage vaping is a serious problem that must be dealt with but also see e-cigarettes as a harm-reduction tool to help smokers ditch cigarettes, and those who believe that this problem can be eradicated through prohibition-esque tactics, like adopting flavor bans that many states and large cities have already done. (The Trump administration has still not landed on a strategy.)
Bayer admitted that the entire situation is “politically delicate.” He does not necessarily think that the “fog” will lift—that those who have been weary or antagonistic to vaping will ever change their minds.
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Stressed Students, Bridesmaids Drama, And More: An Advice Column From A Total Amateur
Hi! A while ago I asked the BuzzFeed Community to tell me a problem they’re having, so that I — a person with absolutely zero professional qualifications to help anyone — could give them advice. So, here are the results! NBC 1. “Dear Andy,I have NO idea where I should go to school… I’m applying…
Hi! A while ago I asked the BuzzFeed Community to tell me a problem they’re having, so that I — a person with absolutely zero professional qualifications to help anyone — could give them advice. So, here are the results!
I have NO idea where I should go to school… I’m applying to 12 schools, 10 on the west coast and two in BC. I’m a high achieving student (I’m in five AP classes, president of two clubs, volunteering and a job, etc.) and I don’t want to go somewhere that’s all about the pressure, but I still want a high quality education. I’m so lost, help!”
—The Overwhelmed Student
You posted this just to dunk on all of us academically, didn’t you?
Kidding. In all seriousness, you can get a very good education at a bunch of different schools. And when you’re done, you’ll have a degree that probably nobody will ever verify! In my completely amateur opinion, the only reason people think the “Ivy League” schools are better is because a lot of wealthy, well-connected people go there (and have gone there), and therefore when you graduate from one, you’re more likely to get in at some fancy law firm or whatever because of your connections. So if you aren’t planning on being like, IDK, the CFO of Waystar Royco or something, just pick the school that you really want to go to. Where are you going to be happy living? Is one of the schools in a city you already want to move to and/or the city that has jobs in your future profession? Is it important for you to be close to home? How many Wendy’s are there on campus, and do they carry Spicy Nuggets? These are the questions you should be asking.
Oh, wait, actually…forget all that. Go to the school that will cost the least when you factor in tuition, room & board, and any scholarships you might get. Student loans are a curse and you want as little of them as possible. In the end, you might not even end up doing the thing you studied in college. Wanna know what degree I have? A BFA in Theater Performance. An acting degree. And now here I am, writing for a website. You’ll be fine.
I got married this summer, and I decided to choose only family to be my bridesmaids. For me this included three female cousins and my (now) sister-in-law. My husband, on the other hand, decided to do a mix of family as well as friends from high school for his groomsmen. I had no problem with this at all.
I had a few friends who I knew would expect to be bridesmaids, so I made it clear to them from the very beginning that I would be choosing family only as to not have a huge wedding party, but I told them they were not any less important to me and that I still wanted them to be involved in the wedding as much as they felt comfortable with. Most of the friends I had this conversation with were very understanding, however one straight up told me that she was disappointed (this was two years before the wedding).
Now it’s been a few months since I got married and this friend (a friend from childhood) started talking about the wedding. She told me she felt left out of the wedding since she wasn’t part of the wedding party. It particularly bothered her that my husband included friends and I didn’t. She then proceeded to tell me that it was difficult for her to be there the day of my wedding because of these feelings. AT MY WEDDING. She also included the fact that she didn’t want to upset me and that it doesn’t change our friendship. But if that is the case then why say anything in the first place? I’ve already said one too many times the reason for my bridesmaid choices and how important she is to me regardless. And she says she understands. I just wish she would let it go. Ever since this conversation I feel like I’ve been seeing her in a whole new light.
I do care about her feelings, but I stick by my decision and I don’t regret anything. I feel like I’ve done everything I can to make her feel better.”
—The Besieged Bride
[TL;DR: Bride had only family as bridesmaids, groom had some friends in the mix, bride’s childhood friend felt left out and complained about it a few months after the wedding.]
Question one: How drunk was your friend when she brought this up to you? If she was like, a 6 or more out of 10, I say let’s give it a pass and hope she got it out of her system.
Question two: Has your friend had a wedding of her own yet? If yes, then she should’ve understood the situation, because wedding planning is a special kind of hell and inevitably you have to make difficult decisions like this one that might hurt people’s feelings. So if you’ve planned your own wedding, you know the deal and you’re able to say to yourself, “It’s their wedding, I’m just going to be supportive and have fun.” If she hasn’t gotten married yet, she’ll realize later that it was totally inappropriate to complain about this to you. Hopefully.
I have been taking so many of the relationship quizzes on BuzzFeed but they all say I’m single. The major problem is I have an S.O. Is she just faking or am I?? Help me!! Is my girlfriend not actually mine or are we real?”
—The Quizzical Quiz-Taker
You’re not real. This is all a simulation.
—Andy (or am I?)
I’m not sure where to live. I live in Milwaukee, WI, right now. Moved here three years ago for school, but that fell through because Milwaukee is friggin expensive. My family wants me to move back to the other side of the state, towards Minneapolis/St. Paul. What should I do?”
—Meandering the Midwest
Get the fuck out of there, it’s so cold! Listen, I used to live in Michigan, and it was depressing because it was grey and miserable nine months out of the year. Now I live in Southern California, it’s sunny and beautiful and my vitamin D levels are through the roof. Migrate south, seriously.
But if you HAVE to stay, I will say that everybody who lives in Minneapolis seems to LOVE Minneapolis for some reason.
My problem is that I struggle with feeling attractive. I started taking birth control when my boyfriend and I started dating (six years ago). I started gaining the weight right after. I’m now a size 12 and my boyfriend is a slender guy. I haven’t felt attractive in the last year. I gained so much weight at one point I was a size 16. I’m back to a 12 and trying to lose weight again. I don’t feel sexy or beautiful in any way. I prefer to keep my shirt on during sex now. I don’t know why my boyfriend still finds me attractive. I have a tummy, I have rolls when I sit down, I just don’t know what he sees anymore. Any advice you could give me would be much appreciated.”
—Struggling With Size
First off, don’t worry about your boyfriend. Clearly he finds you attractive, and when you actually care about someone, the size tags on their clothes don’t matter to you at all. Appreciate that fact and find some security there.
Now, consider the possibility that if your boyfriend finds you attractive at any size, you can too! It’s not easy. It requires shedding every bit of toxic influence that the media and our society overall has thrown at you for your entire life. That takes time and work.
But if you are worried about your physical health at all, consult a doctor. There are many different types of birth control and like 40 different pills, and everyone reacts to each one differently. It can take time to find the right one, and not every doctor is going to be helpful about it. Advocate for yourself if you’re unhappy with your medication. You may have done all of this already and I’m just sitting here mansplaining BC to you, but if so at least you can cross that off your Mansplaining Bingo Card.
That’s it for this week. But if you’re having a problem that you need advice about, let me know! It could be anything: petty arguments that you need a judge to decide who was right and who was wrong, help making life decisions, relationship issues — I’m your completely unqualified man. Email firstname.lastname@example.org (for total anonymity) or leave a comment here!