Truth Initiative Endorses and Condemns Vaping

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    Truth Initiative, the richest and most powerful American tobacco control organization, has endorsed vaping as a cessation tool for smokers. However, the endorsement comes with such a list of caveats and demands that they probably should have just saved their breath.

    In a document called “Action needed on e-cigarettes” released Thursday, Truth grudgingly accepted that “Some smokers may be unable or unwilling to quit using nicotine and would benefit by completely switching to a much lower harm nicotine delivery mechanism (including potentially a well-regulated e-cigarette).”

    Much like the American Cancer Society’s admission that vaping might help smokers, the Truth statement follows its weak endorsement with a staggering list of requirements for the vaping industry and the FDA. In fact, the Truth proposals are even worse.

    The “harm minimization” policies Truth Initiative supports include:

    • FDA must begin requiring PMTA’s for all vaping products immediately
    • FDA must issue manufacturing requirements that ensure all e-cigarettes
    • FDA must eliminate flavors
    • FDA must ban online sales
    • States should impose restrictions on sales to those under 21
    • States and localities must include e-cigarettes in all indoor smoking restrictions
    • Taxes must be imposed on vaping products

    After explaining that they don’t know what the risks of vaping are, Truth says taxes must be apportioned based on risk, to “discourage use of the most harmful products.” They then say that, “Regardless of level of harm, all taxes should be set high enough to discourage youth use.” How much is that? Better just set the taxes really high to be sure.

    Hilariously, Truth bemoans the “substantial consumer confusion around the potential harms of e-cigarettes,” and blames a “significant portion” on the lack of FDA pre-market review of vaping products. Truth conveniently ignores the coordinated campaign of disinformation conducted for years by them and organizations they fund and support.

    Truth Initiative was originally called the American Legacy Foundation. It was created as part of the 1999 Master Settlement Agreement, the legal settlement between 46 U.S. states and the tobacco industry, and originally funded by tobacco company payments. Truth reported about $900 million in net assets last year.

    The MSA describes (on page 37) limitations on Legacy’s political activity that the organization seems to regularly ignore. “The Foundation shall not engage in, nor shall any of the Foundation’s money be used to engage in, any political activities or lobbying, including, but not limited to, support of or opposition to candidates, ballot initiatives, referenda or other similar activities.” Truth Initiative regularly engages in lobbying, and is also a major funder of other anti-tobacco (and anti-vaping) organizations, like the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

    In 2015, Legacy rebranded itself as Truth Initiative, named after their “truth” anti-smoking campaigns. In 2017, after years of being muzzled by the organization, Truth’s best scientists — David Abrams and Raymond Niaura — left the organization’s Schroeder Institute for Tobacco Research and Policy Studies, and immediately began research focused on e-cigarettes and tobacco harm reduction at New York University.

    Earlier this year, Truth Initiative helped lead the coordinated tobacco control attack on JUUL, releasing a study that supposedly showed JUUL’s youth appeal. Before that, the organization was a plaintiff in a tobacco control lawsuit against the FDA, intended to pressure the agency into applying the PMTA requirement for vapor products this year.

    Jim McDonald
    Smokers created vaping without any help from the tobacco industry or anti-smoking crusaders, and vapers have the right to keep innovating to help themselves. My goal is to provide clear, honest information about the challenges vaping faces from lawmakers, regulators, and brokers of disinformation. I recently joined the CASAA board, but my opinions aren’t necessarily CASAA’s, and vice versa. You can find me on Twitter @whycherrywhy