NEWS SPOTLIGHT: HEALTH GROUPS PROFITING FROM ANTI-VAPING MESSAGE? Report suggests collusion among US public health, anti- tobacco groups and federal government By Gordon Stribling A new report suggests that some US public health bodies, federal government and anti-tobacco groups may have orchestrated a coordinated anti-vaping campaign. “There are hundreds, thousands of people who are working and being paid to basically kill the e-cigarette industry which will basically kill a lot of adult smokers,” the report’s author Michelle Minton told Regulator Watch in an interview. Minton, a senior fellow specialising in consumer policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, noticed a contrast between the stories about a teen vaping epidemic circulating in the media and the actual research data, which she says only points to a small percentage of teens experimenting with e-cigarettes. “It didn’t in my mind rise to the level of panic I was seeing in newspapers [and] on blogs.” Minton spoke to health departments and began looking at the actions of the FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and academics and concluded that they were in constant communication with one another. Rather than being truly independent, they were, she said, ‘deeply financially-interwoven.’ “The ‘A-ha! moment’ was when I realised that the Florida Public Health Department had petitioned the federal government for a big grant for their operations and had listed the ACS [American Cancer Society] as their contractor to carry it out,” she added. “The project would actually be housed at the ACS building in Florida and members of ACS would be paid by the Department of Health as employees.” The author behind the report has also said that most people in the US are unaware that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is comprised of separate entities that all 14 | VM22 have to compete for a slice of the budget. “The better case they can make that something is a huge threat, the more money they can get,” according to Minton. While public health departments and organisations compete for NIH grants, ‘private’ non-profits such as Truth Initiative and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK) conduct government business as contractors, according to the author. “These groups then lobby the federal government and say, ‘Hey, we think the National Cancer Institute (NCI) should get some more money because of this huge problem,” Minton said. “And then the NCI hands some of that money over to these groups. So, it’s a nice little circle that they’re all working together to sustain their campaigns.” While the exact figure is unknown, Minton believes that ‘billions’ is spent on fighting vaping, a sizeable chunk of it funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), a founder of CTFK and the philanthropic arm of Nicorette-manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson. She believes the foundation donates hundreds of millions of dollars each year to universities, individual researchers and the ACS, who then fund more groups who coordinate their efforts to fight e-cigarettes. Minton said she found what she believes to be collusion between the organisations to be ‘disturbing’. “You have the FDA citing CTFK, Truth and researchers at the NIH citing these studies that they have funded and then news media reports [that] ‘there’s a new study, CDC says this’ and they are citing all of these people. “It appears as if it’s a groundswell of independent groups that are saying the same thing, that e-cigarettes are dangerous, they’re hooking our kids, they’re going to kill our kids.