Patients deaths raise concerns over young people’s use of vaping

Patients deaths raise concerns over young people’s use of vaping

While the US recorded its first death due to symptoms reportedly related to vaping last month, four more patients deaths have since then been linked to the use of e-cigarettes. In the case of the first patient, the cause of death is believed to have been an illness prompted by a substance present in e-cigarettes which affected the lungs, similarly to an inhalation injury. While further investigations are on-going for more conclusive findings, health officials have raised their concerns about the dangers of e-cigarettes, which is being adopted in rising numbers by young people.

Due to the creation of juuls, vape pens and various electronic cigarettes, a generation that was statistically unlikely to develop nicotine addictions, or to even start smoking in the first place, has taken to the habit. What has been marketed as an innovative and safe way of helping smokers to quit nicotine, has in fact had a perverse effect: in the US alone, up to 5 million young people have taken up vaping over the course of only one year.

For a generation that has grown up learning of the dangers of smoking comes the electronic cigarette for the electronic age. Studies have found that marketing for electronic cigarettes are specifically targeted towards younger demographics. And it’s working, with evidence showing that young people smoke e-cigarettes more than any other age group

E-cigarettes have been marketed by the industry as being less health threatening than tobacco cigarettes. However, the World Health Organisation warns that there’s no evidence to suggest that any sort of vapes with tobacco, Heated tobacco products (HTPs) have less risk than normal cigarettes. Although some vapes don’t contain tobacco, Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) still have nicotine, which is not without its own major health issues, due to the toxic substances used to make them.

Steps are being taken to combat the risk that e-cigarettes pose. Researchers continue to study the effects that they are having and talks are being had to discuss potential legal sanctions.

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Dublin attracts innovation, but for how long?

Dublin attracts innovation, but for how long?

Dublin continues to make a name for itself as a space for innovation. Within the last three months multiple international companies have announced their plans to open divisions or expand existing offices in Dublin. 

In late May, ‘Deem’ a mobile and cloud software technology provider, with its headquarters in San Francisco put forward their plan to create 50 new jobs by opening a new European Innovation Centre in Dublin, with intent to further expand in 2020. 

The CEO and president of ‘Deem’ John F. Rizzo was quoted to have said he thought Dublin “is the ideal location for our new European Innovation Centre”. In addition, this month US company ‘Toast’, which provides a technological platform for restaurants, announced that it is to open a division in Dublin, creating 120 new jobs

Senior vice president of engineering at ‘Toast’ said, that the city is the right location for their new office because Dublin is a recognised technology hub in Europe. Also this month, Northern Irish company ‘Beyond Business Travel’ also put forward its plans to establish a Dublin branch

Furthermore, many businesses for example LinkedIn, which have established themselves in Dublin also have plans to expand and further solidify their standing.  

Such a wide array of sectors looking to set themselves up in Dublin, from tech, to travel to innovation and food. There seems to be a magnetic pull to Dublin for all areas of business. In 2018 Zalando’s Sean Mullaney, who had previously served as head of innovation for machine learning at Google Dublin spoke on the appeal of Dublin. He said that “Dublin is becoming a tech centre for a lot of EU talent”.

IDA Ireland – working to bring foreign investments in Ireland – has a hand in the interest shown by businesses. There seems only to be more plans of growth and expansions in the works. However, it has become obvious that Dublin is attractive to these companies for another more practical reason. That being Ireland’s exceptionally low corporation tax, which sits at 12.5%. Which makes Ireland’s corporation tax joint lowest in the world with Cyprus.

For context, the average global corporation tax is 23.03%, a recent historical low due to the decreasing rate of worldwide corporation tax since 1980. Ireland’s low corporation tax has faced criticism internally and externally, but the bottomline function of it is to entice more business in the country.

This unique appeal that Ireland has stands to be challenged by new British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. Johnson has stated his intention to cut corporation tax in Britain, in what seems to be an effort to ease the strain of a hard Brexit. Currently, British corporation tax sits at 19%, with it being expected to fall to 17% next year. Unlike Johnson who has not yet mentioned a specific reduction, a cut to 12.5% was suggested by Jeremy Hunt, who was a candidate to become Prime Minister.

It is a strategy of making things worse before they get better, if they eventually do. By cutting corporation tax, the immediate and short term effect will mean less revenue. It’s a calculated risk that hopes that less immediate revenue will translate to more business, more investment, more employment then eventually more revenue. This risk stakes its reward in hope, which a low corporation tax rate doesn’t guarantee. Like in 2008, when Britain lowered the tax but revenue fell. There are other factors that come into play in determining whether a country is attractive to foreign investors. Such as, for example, connections to other countries, EU countries have free trade. It gives foreign investors further incentive as they gain easy access to the large EU market.

As Dublin continues to extend a welcoming hand to foreign investors, in many ways, it seems like it’s main tactic for doing so will soon be co-opted by a very near neighbour.

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The public influence the entertainment they get, and we should use this to promote films that give a voice to people who are usually denied a platform to share their opinion. 

The popular belief is that, films that are independently produced have a small audience and so they don’t get a lot of exposure, but with on-demand streaming platforms and crowdfunding, the public can now directly influence the film industry, making sure these films get made, and find an audience.

Now and again, we get films which would normally be thought to lack mass appeal, that are then given the opportunity to break this wall of expectations that block them from getting a fair shot. And they defy those expectations. This was the case of Tomorrow, an inspiring documentary about people around the world taking action to transition to a more sustainable society. The film was in big part funded through public’s donations on a crowd-funding platform called Kisskissbankbank. Tomorrow received unexpected success, went on to win awards and was distributed in 27 countries – moving and inspiring audiences worldwide.

Streaming platforms such as Netflix have also started funding their own films and documentaries, based on what their customers watch – hence giving us another cheap way of stating clearly what genres we want to support.

As members of the public, we can give independent filmmakers their fair chance, and influence what subjects are brought to the spotlight by the film industry. Films are like everything that’s bought and sold, it depends on demand and supply. However, often in any market place, acceptance is taken as sufficient to demand. But by using crowdfunding platforms to support independent films, and telling streaming platforms what kind of films we want to see, we can concretely influence what films are being made.

To ensure that new perspectives are being given a chance to be shared and also for consumers to get the chance to experience new types of film, we need to utilise this influence. By moving away from passive acceptance to active demands, we can do this. 

Photo by Avel Chuklanov on Unsplash

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Cryptocurrency: why are States fighting the trend

Not since the birth of the system of “money” as we now know it has money ever been separate from governing bodies. The control and thereby power of monetary relations have always been held in the hands of the head of state. 

Going back to 5000 BC, money was not a good or service. Its value was placed on by a community and was seen as equal to exchange for actual goods or services. Eventually we moved on to metals (silver, gold) then coins, then paper money, each being easier to make and exchange. Now there’s electronic money – even easier still – just tap a bank card or click some buttons and exchanges are made without physical materials. 

In official terms, we went from commodity money to representative money. Commodity money being something of value in and of itself, like salt and metals. Representative money being something with no other value other that which we placed on it, like paper money. Representative money has to be backed by governments and banks. Representative money was then updated to fiat money, a legal tender whose value is backed by the government that issues it, and it’s illegal to reject its value. 

In this context, it’s easy to see that money has almost never been separate from the control of the state and banks, and it gives us a hint as to why cryptocurrency hasn’t been fully welcomed by governments.

Cryptocurrency is an internet-based medium of exchange which uses cryptographical functions to conduct financial transactions. Cryptocurrencies use blockchain technology to gain decentralization, transparency, and immutability. Its most important feature is that it is not controlled by any central authority: the decentralized nature of the blockchain makes cryptocurrencies theoretically immune to the old ways of government control and interference.

Most countries haven’t out rightly made cryptocurrency illegal, with most going with a cautious but opportunistic approach. However, nine countries have banned some sort of cryptocurrency usage, and 10 more countries have placed restrictions and bans on its use, as of early this year. 

The EU hasn’t issued any official legalities on cryptocurrency, thereby giving EU countries free reign to decide for themselves. In Ireland, cryptocurrency can be used while not being a legal tender, however it is still taxed. For its users, this virtual system comes with positives and negatives. There are no exchange rates, low to no transaction fees and interest rates. 

In ways it prevents vulnerability in that, only what you give can be taken. While it may seem like a given, in a lot of other virtual transactions, the amount taken is up to the integrity of the taker, which leads to risks, with for example credit cards being hacked.

Cryptocurrency is also accessible to everyone with an internet access, everywhere and anytime. It’s a decentralized system, meaning it has no one governing body, but rather requires accumulated action from the collective – giving back some sort of control of the money system to the people.

But, there are also risks as the platforms being used must be trustworthy. Last month, an Irish cryptocurrency platform, ‘Bitsane’, disappeared,  taking hundreds of thousands of users’ assets with it. On a wider scale, cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, by their anonymous nature, have been accused of being used for criminal activities, such as money laundering. 

Despite governments making their concerns heard on the risks associated with it, the use of cryptocurrency seems to be widening, with for example Facebook planning to launch a new cryptocurrency platform called Libra. The future will tell who, from the citizens to governments, get the final word. But cryptocurrency clearly has no intention to slow down.

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Consumers in the digital age: what’s our influence?

Consumers in the digital age: what’s our influence?

In this new digital age, we find ourselves in a new marketplace of sorts. With this new space comes relations among the players in this space and new power dynamics. The stage for these relations are social media platform – here, clicks, views and engagement equal revenue and profits. For consumers, it’s important to examine where they stand in this and how they can have their say. 

Often on social media platforms, the services made available to us are free, which serves to show that, in a way we are the service being provided. Be it through, our information being gathered or targeted advertising we are often being sold by social media platforms or its entrepreneurs. By understanding this dynamic a bit more we can decipher our own influence as consumers. 

We can take the example of a recent report of a social media influencer who has millions of followers, certifying her as an influential figure who has substantial control in the digital sphere. Nevertheless, upon releasing a line for followers to buy she only managed to sell under 36 shirts. This situation gives us further insight into the digital marketplace, telling us that despite appearances those with the title of influencers who have millions of followers may not be the ones truly doing the influencing. Enforcing the idea that though the power of influence appears to be with those with larger platforms, in reality the power, as with most things, lies in the hands of the multitude.

By recognizing our influence as consumers, we can better control our own online marketplace. On scales such as these, it seems impossible to imagine that we can have an influence on anything major. However, upon closer examination we see that appearances of power do not mean power, by knowing this we can begin to operate in this power. Ultimately, working towards a digital marketplace of our own design. 

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Can consumers control the conduct around climate change?

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In recent discourse about climate change, increasing responsibility has been placed on consumers to recognize their impact on the environment and to turn the situation around. The push for individual recognition of their role in the fight against climate change marks an important change in the conversation. 

It has become increasingly clear that rather than the responsibility being shared by consumers and organizations to improve their environmental outputs, it has been more so shifted onto consumers. This trend of shifting away focus from corporate behaviour and focusing on that of the consumer, begs the question: can there be significant change, when for each small good the consumer does the overwhelming bad of the corporation counteracts it? Or is it a “two steps forward and ten steps back” situation?  

It has been theorized that organizations often create problems in order to provide a specific solution that furthers their own interests. The problem of climate change is one that already exists, framing the problem as largely an issue of individual consumption is not only wrong but harmful. 

While little actions are being taken in the right direction by individuals, giant actions are simultaneously being taken in the other by bigger entities. Straws are a perfect example: plastic straws having a negative impact on the environment, and especially marine life, businesses have pushed consumers to invest in reusable straws to lessen their impact.

However, behind those reusable straws, one must question the waste incurred in the process of its production, delivery methods and the packaging it comes in. Independent environmental consciousness is undoubtedly a good thing, still, there is a necessity to ensure the efforts of the individuals are not being invalidated by organizations.

The responsibility for environmental consciousness should be borne by all, on all levels. The consumer can fight climate change by their choices, but unless there is a big push for big corporations to take action to limit their own environmental impact, progress to a more sustainable society will be minimal.

Consumers have such an influence over the general market, by thinking consciously and acting accordingly, consumers can change the conduct of corporations. If we demand not only green products but also green means of production, and support brands who supply it, that would be a giant step in consuming our way out of climate change.

 

 

 

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Image courtesy of Markus Spiske via Unsplash 

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