How three liberal nonprofits are leading the anti-vaping campaign
Vaping nicotine offers a safer and healthier alternative to smoking, according to dozens of public health groups and governments, including the Centers for Disaster Control and Preventionthe Food and drug administrationand the American Cancer Society. But three liberal nonprofit organizations that claim to be dedicated to science and public health are funding one of the largest public health campaigns in US history to ban vaping products in the United States.
Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have partnered, spending more than $100 million since 2017 on grants, research and other nonprofits, all dedicated to banning nicotine products. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has, to a lesser extent, joined this effort, giving more than $20 million since 2017. In total, the money amounts to a massive crusade to undermine vaping and non-combustible tobacco products.
But the push also comes amid growing evidence that alternatives to smoking offer a significantly healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes and cigars. Some of the groups working to ban vaping products from the US market, including Truth Initiative, admit that vaping could significantly reduce smoking rates.
The biggest contributor to the anti-vaping effort is Bloomberg Philanthropies, the eponymous charity started by Democratic billionaire megadonor and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Since 2017, his charity has given large sums of money to anti-tobacco organizations such as the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
This group, which received at least $60 million from Bloomberg, called for the elimination of all flavored vaping products as well as popular vapes such as Juul. For months, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids lobbied the FDA to deny Juul’s marketing application, which would effectively shut down the company.
In June, the FDA endorsed the position of the Tobacco-Free Kids Campaign. Moving deserved applause of the group, calling the FDA’s decision “the most significant action…to reverse the e-cigarette epidemic among young people” in the agency’s history.
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has spent just under $1 million in lobbying efforts ahead of the FDA’s decision this year, according to federal records. Among the firms hired was NVG LLC, a Democrat-linked lobbying firm that focuses on FDA-related issues.
Experts have warned that outside lobbying efforts could prevent the FDA from making science-based decisions on vaping devices. Dr. Cliff Douglas, former vice president of tobacco control at the American Cancer Society, written last year that “tobacco control organizations” such as the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids “have exerted inordinate pressure on the FDA”.
“The FDA’s scientific review process must be protected,” Douglas wrote. “Unfortunately, unless warring factions find ways to unite to support the health and well-being of all, young and old, the heat and rhetoric around these issues will only increase, as will the cost to the health of our nations.”
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids did not respond for comment. Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation did not respond to requests for comment.
Other Bloomberg-backed groups, including Vital Strategies, also lobbied for the ban. Vital Strategies, which describes itself as a public health organization dedicated to “reinventing public health”, has called for the complete elimination of tobacco products worldwide.
Bloomberg Philanthropies has given more than $42 million to Vital Strategies since 2017. Just under half of those funds, $20 million, were assigned to a “global tobacco industry watchdog” named Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products. Vital Strategies claims to be a “lead partner” in Bloomberg’s billion-dollar initiative to “reduce tobacco use.”
Bloomberg Philanthropies is also in an explicit partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, founded by billionaire and former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates. The foundation gave $4 million in 2019 to Bloomberg Philanthropies for anti-tobacco initiatives, including Vital Strategies, according to publicly available tax forms.
That same year, the Gates Foundation committed more than $60 million to the left-wing advocacy group New Venture Fund. This grant was specifically intended, among other things, for “tobacco control”.
Industry groups, such as the American Vaping Manufacturers Association (AVMA), have said the vaping regulatory process is corrupted by the outside influence of these groups.
“This critical public health issue, which should be guided strictly by scientific analysis, has been gripped by pompous moguls who are unaccountable to no one,” AVMA President Amanda Wheeler said. , in a press release. Free Washington Beacon. “The effect is that countless Americans are being deprived of the most effective method of smoking cessation. This should be a national outrage.”
A lesser-known organization, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, led by former President Barack Obama’s CDC director Richard Besser, has donated nearly $12 million to the campaign for tobacco-free kids since 2017. The Robert Foundation Wood Johnson has also funded other efforts. , donating nearly $3 million in 2020 to the Public Health Law Center.
The Public Health Law Center this year published a “E-Cigarette Policy Guidein collaboration with Vaping Prevention Resource, the self-proclaimed “first online destination for vaping prevention media”.
Among other policies, the policy manual recommends that local governments restrict the number of vaping retailers by setting “a hard cap on the issuance of new licenses,” with the goal of reducing the number of tobacco vendors in the targeted area. Some states, like New York, have adopted this policy, while others, like Connecticut, have said it will lead to black markets.
In recent years, the Democratic Party has increasingly targeted tobacco products. In addition to deciding to end the sale of Juuls, President Joe Biden’s FDA issued a rule banning menthol cigarettes and a regulation to drastically reduce the amount of nicotine in unflavored cigarettes.
Democrats also proposed a tax on all vaping products in their original budget reconciliation bill that later became the Cut Inflation Act. This plan would have taxed vaping products at a rate of $50.33 for every 1,810 milligrams of nicotine they contain.