Posted by on May 28, 2023 6:59 am
Categories: News Washington Examiner

Biden HHS spends millions on ‘anti-vaping’ social media campaign for LGBT youth

A person smokes a Juul Labs Inc. e-cigarette in this arranged photograph taken in the Brooklyn Borough of New York, U.S., on Sunday July 8, 2018. Juul Labs, the maker of the popular e-cigarette brand that has recently come under fire from health officials over its popularity with young adults, plans to introduce a line of lower-nicotine pods. (Gabby Jones/Bloomberg)

Biden HHS spends millions on ‘anti-vaping’ social media campaign for LGBT youth

Gabe Kaminsky May 28, 05:00 AMMay 28, 05:00 AM Video Embed

President Joe Biden’s Department of Health and Human Services has spent millions in taxpayer dollars on a social media project “to prevent vaping initiation among LGBTQ youth,” records show.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse handed more than $2.2 million to the University of Pennsylvania for an “anti-vaping messages” project from July 2021 to April 2026 that aims to craft social media strategies “to reduce disparities in vaping” among “sexual and gender minority youth,” according to funding documents reviewed by the Washington Examiner.


“The federal government has known for years that these boneheaded campaigns are actually increasing the appeal and use of vaping among young audiences,” Allison Boughner, vice president of American Vapor Manufacturers, the leading trade group for the vaping industry, told the Washington Examiner. “Those ads also bleed over to adult audiences, which in this case will scare and deter countless LGBT adults away from quitting cigarettes by switching to the vastly safer alternative of vaping.”

Boughner added that the HHS grant appears to be “another horrendously irresponsible cash grab” that is “a waste of taxpayer dollars because it’s making the underlying problem even worse and causing terrible real-world harm.”

The Biden administration and congressional Democrats have come under fire from Republicans, as well as groups trying to help people get off cancerous cigarettes, for taking aim at the vaping industry through increased regulation. The HHS grant is a window into the clash between vape companies and the federal government as sales of vaping products continue to skyrocket and the global industry approaches a valuation worth hundreds of billions of dollars, according to February 2023 research by Beyond Market Insights.

Teenage vaping has been on the rise in recent years, while cigarette smoking has declined from decades prior, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which noted that cigarette smoking has been responsible for over 480,000 deaths per year in the United States.

The Food and Drug Administration’s move in June 2022 to order Juul, a major electronic cigarette company, to stop selling products in the U.S. was widely criticized by Republican lawmakers. In turn, the agency backed down and announced there were “scientific issues unique to the JUUL application that warrant additional review” after a federal court granted the company a temporary stay that blocked the government from enforcing its ban, according to court records.

“Our study objective is to evaluate the effectiveness of a tailored social media intervention to prevent vaping initiation among LGBTQ youth ages 13-18 years,” the University of Pennsylvania says on its website. “We will conduct rapid-cycle feedback with stakeholders including LGBTQ organization leaders and youth advisor to provide input on the message design, testing, and intervention implementation to ensure feasibility and acceptability of the intervention.”

In 2021, the National Institute on Drug Abuse spent almost $768,000 on the University of Pennsylvania anti-vaping effort, while funding between 2022 and 2023 reached $1.4 million, according to grant records. The National Institutes of Health’s Office of the Director spent $40,000 on the project in 2022.

NIDA has disclosed several research publications in connection to the grant, including one in January that advocated that “tobacco control research” be influenced by “intersectionality,” a framework coined by “critical race theory” scholar Kimberle Crenshaw that aims to understand a person in terms of his or her political and social identity. Such publications “are associated with projects,” according to the HHS.

The University of Pennsylvania-linked grant is premised on the “Health Equity Promotion Model,” a notion holding that “marginalized communities” experience “health disparities” that are a result of “systemic” and institutional problems, according to grant records and a separate 2014 study describing the model. Conservative activist groups have long slammed the notion of “equity” as contrary to equality since the former has been associated with left-leaning education initiatives on “diversity.”

“A $2.2 million grant to test the effectiveness of lying to marginalized young people is clearly a step in the wrong direction and risks further harming at-risk youth,” Alex Clark, CEO of the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association, an advocacy group supporting “reduced-harm alternatives to smoking,” told the Washington Examiner.

The grant is not the only example of the Biden administration using federal funds to support anti-vaping projects. NIDA is supporting a project at the University of Oklahoma running from February 2023 to January 2028, to the tune of almost $184,000, that will foster “mentored career development” and examine how people aged 18 to 25 are affected by social media when it comes to “nicotine vaping,” funding documents show.


“While vaping isn’t risk-free, which is an unreasonable bar for any consumer product, it and other smoke-free options are proving to be a more popular and effective exit strategy from smoking than approved therapies,” Clark added. “Just because a person identifies as LGBTQ+ doesn’t justify lying to them about products that can improve or save their lives.”

The HHS and the University of Pennsylvania did not reply to requests for comment.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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