I'll be back with more news and views from the dark side of prohibition at the weekend. Until then, I see that The New York Times is reporting that the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) is diverting its vast wealth away from tobacco control and towards obesity. (And yes, RWJF's primary funders Johnson & Johnson sell a number of weight-loss drugs, as well as making nicotine replacement drugs.)
Tobacco Funds Shrink as Obesity Fight Intensifies
When the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation decided in 1991 to take on Joe Camel, it became the nation’s largest private funding source for fighting smoking. The foundation spent $700 million to help knock the cartoon character out of advertisements, finance research and advocacy for higher cigarette taxes and smoke-free air laws and, ultimately, to aid in reducing the nation’s smoking rate almost by half.
But a few years ago, the Johnson foundation, based in Princeton, N.J., added another target to its mission, pledging to spend $500 million in five years to battle childhood obesity. As the antiobesity financing rose to $58 million last year, a new compilation from the foundation shows, the organization’s antismoking grants fell to $4 million.
And RWJF are not the only ones to be shifting focus.
The steep drop-off in private funds illustrates the competition under way for money as public health priorities shift. In the race for preventive health care dollars, from charities and from federal and state government sources, the tobacco warriors have become a big loser...
The 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement between 46 states and cigarette companies provided more than $200 billion through 2025. For a while it financed preventive programs like the “Truth” media campaign from the antismoking group American Legacy Foundation. But as states used money elsewhere, “Truth” spending declined, to a low of $35 million last year from $104 million in 2000.
Naturally, uber-zealot Stanton Glantz is not happy about being moved further down the trough.
Stanton A. Glantz, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco, asked, “Given that tobacco kills four times as many people as obesity does, why is the government putting more money into obesity?”
From a European perspective, the funds allocated to tobacco control remain eye-wateringly huge. Whilst I would never condone the government giving money to lobby groups, the amounts received by ASH (England) and its wealthier little sister ASH (Scotland) are peanuts compared to the billions enjoyed by American groups. And yet the smoking rate in America is virtually identical to that of Britain. Does this mean that British anti-smoking groups are exceptionally effective or are American anti-smoking groups exceptionally useless? Or are they both simply irrelevant?