One thing I believe we have all heard about recently is Trump’s Food and Drug Administration ban on flavored e-cigarettes. While we each can have our own opinion about it, I find my beliefs aligning with this slighted CNN user: “I believe the Trump administration’s ban on flavored e-liquids and cartridges is ridiculous and unnecessary.” But not for the reasons you may think. Health-wise, one is better off not smoking any type of cigarette altogether, but that’s not why I wanted to make a point of this ban. My issue with the ban lies in the simple fact that this is the issue that is being tackled as of right now.
Why did this issue have such a quick response from the government? And what does the public stand to gain from such a heated and focused discussion on this topic, when there are larger problems that require twice the attention and vigilance? This bewilders me as a moderately informed citizen because 1) why did people in general respond so vehemently to this issue? and 2) is this just an easy fix from the government’s side to shield people from the larger problems we all know exist? I believe the answers to these two questions, as well as the previous ones I raised, go hand-in-hand with each other, and they require a deeper look into human beings as one co-dependent social group.
Vaping is one of those issues where it is so easy to take a stance on it: People either should or should not do it. The fact that the government has also taken a stance on the issue makes it that much simpler to voice an opinion about it. It effectively allows people who do not deal with larger problems such as racism and poverty feel good about themselves, and it gives them a sense of moral superiority in that their government has taken care of a problem that threatens the lives of young individuals. It allows those people who have the privilege to say, “I am not political” to become political so they can prove that they sympathize with others. Issues such as climate change and gun violence also have relatively clear-cut answers, but the media and the political atmosphere at the moment have made those arenas so charged with tensions that anyone who wishes to tackle them will get caught in a political crossfire. According to VeryWellMind, “people show a disproportionate preference for choices that maintain the status quo,” which essentially means that the risk of getting caught in a crossfire does not outweigh the benefit of enacting change for the better.
This whole argument reminds me of a student opting to complete a small homework assignment due in two months rather than even starting a project that constitutes the majority of their grade that also happens to be due tomorrow. While no sane student would hopefully make that choice, the feeling of “completing” something, anything, overtakes other rational thought and can allow this imaginary student to feel good about being “productive.” Yes, they did something, but it could have also been dealt with at a later time because there are more pressing problems at hand.
On the governmental side, having the attention focused on vaping allows them to continue to do nothing, because people either are saying this is a right decision or that it’s a wrong decision or that it’s not worth the attention it is getting (like I am doing right now)! The misdirection of attention works to their advantage.
Obviously, the focus that the ban has gotten since a week ago has died down a bit, but new questions arise: What is the next new “problem” the government will choose to concentrate upon? And how long do we have to deal with mere deflections and promises until we see systemic problems being taken care of, so the true welfare of our citizens is guaranteed? How long will it take for the government to address bigger problems like sexual assault and stop exacerbating problems that do not need the attention at the moment? The same sentiment against change that exists in the people also exists in the government because people are supposed to vote for people who reflect their opinions. However, it is time for that change.
Lavanya Sambaraju is a contributor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com