HSU student Elena Rios taking a smoke break between classes in a designated smoking area which was removed from campus. | File photo by Iridian Casarez

Vaping Epidemic Overshadows Opioid Crisis

Opinion: The opioid crisis is overlooked as the vaping epidemic is brought to the foreground.

Opioid crisis overlooked as ‘vaping epidemic’ is brought to the foreground

With Hollywood actors and prominent public figures accessorizing day-to-day life with a JUUL in hand, vaping was quick to enter the teenage party scene and develop a reputation amongst the younger crowd.

Years ago, public disapproval was primarily aimed at the advertisements vaping companies released. The younger crowd became the target audience with the promotion of sweet, tempting flavors, and the original audience, adults who were looking to quit cigarettes, quickly became a secondary target.

In late August, seven deaths in relation to vaping were confirmed. Beyond that, 530 cases of lung illness found in young adults have been attached to vaping with the numbers on the rise. Regardless of whether marijuana or nicotine cartridges are being used, an unrelated chemical substance is being singled out. Vitamin E acetate, a common diluent used in vaping cartridges to cut the product and increase shelf longevity, appears to be the cause.

Vitamin E comes in many forms and is most commonly known for its moisturizing and adhering quality. Physicians are dumbfounded by the idea of smoking it. Medical officials compare smoking Vitamin E acetate to “[s]aran wrap around your lungs” as the tocopherol element adheres to the lungs liner fluid, blocking oxygen travel.

The light on vaping has cast a shadow on a much older and somehow less prominent issue affecting our country, the opioid epidemic. Since the ’90s, medical officials began distributing pain relievers at a higher rate after pharmaceutical companies assured them of their non-addictive quality. Proven to be false, this ultimately resulted in over 700,000 people dying from a drug overdose within the 1999 to 2017 time period. And according to the CDC, 400,000 of the deaths were due to overdose involving opioids, prescription and illicit.

Since then, an estimated 130 people die daily from opioid-related drug overdoses. Unlike the vaping “epidemic,” officials are aware that 40% of opioid overdose deaths are connected to a prescription but refuse to take action and put restrictions on pharmaceutical companies.

Focus continues to surround vaping. Measures are being introduced to limit access to vaping devices. Meanwhile, the country has been at war with drugs since the ’70s with little to no improvement.

It took less than two months for legislators to begin discussions on vaping issues and introduce more than 200 bills to combat it. In almost half a century the opioid epidemic has claimed more than 400,000 lives, with 47,000 in 2017 alone, and leaves 1.7 million people suffering from substance disorders relating to prescription opioid pain relievers.

The more urgent issue is somehow the least prominent thought in any officials mind.

Before jumping into the next news-worthy drug epidemic, let’s overcome the current opioid battle we’ve been struggling with for almost 50 years and relieve the pain of over a million people before forgetting them altogether.

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