AS someone who believes that climate change is a hoax and gave fresh credence to the myth that the MMR vaccine causes autism, we probably shouldn't look to President Donald Trump for guidance on matters of public health or science.

But the 'Donald' has waded in to the latest health panic sweeping America: that vaping has caused a spate of severe lung injuries and deaths.

On September 11 he announced that he had instructed the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to remove all non-tobacco flavoured e-cigarettes from the market, commenting that "people are dying".

At the latest count, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said 530 people - many of them teenagers - have been identified with the same mysterious lung disease that resembles a rare form of pneumonia.

Official figures put the death toll at 11, including nine in Georgia. Most of the patients are male, aged 26 on average, and otherwise healthy.

Officials have traced the illness to vaping, though the exact cause remains elusive.

READ MORE: Where does US vaping death leave the cigarette substitute? 

Most patients have a history of vaping THC - the psychoactive compound in cannabis - though the most recent fatality, reported this week, is said to have only vaped nicotine.

Investigators are also looking into whether the vaping products could have been contaminated.

To date, no cases have been reported outwith the US and, at the very least, it seems odd that there should be a sudden explosion in cases of a new lung disease that has never been reported in a decade of widespread e-cigarette use.

Prof Peter Hajek, director of the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), said the outbreak "is similar to methanol poisonings that kill people every now and then when contaminated alcohol is sold".

E-cigarettes vaporise a mixture of nicotine, flavourings and other chemicals, and have been promoted as a safer alternative to smoking or as a quitting aid.

Caution makes sense, but the furore around vaping would be counter-productive to public health if it pushes people back to cigarettes - something we know for certain causes serious and fatal illness.

READ MORE: Banning flavoured e-cigarettes 'will drive users back to smoking'

The best advice for anyone is to avoid cigarettes and vaping altogether.

But the irony has also not been lost on some observers that the president has been quick to act on vaping and yet so reluctant to act on something that has claimed so many more lives: guns.

In 2019 alone, eight people have been killed and 40 injured in US school shootings. In 2017, the last year that statistics are available, there were 11,000 firearm homicides.

Once again, we need to put risk into perspective and let science find out what is really behind the US vaping sickness.