Wednesday, April 13, 2005

READER RESPONSE -- How is it that this scandalous activity isn't covered by any media group?

Posted by Craig Westover | 10:16 AM |  

The question in the title and following information were sent to me, and while I find it interesting and probably true (I have not validated it), I also have to note that I don't think this is the way to fight smoking bans.

The money trail here should not come as a surprise. Money trails never should.

I have stacks of information that document a money trail from big pharmaceutical companies to the Bush administration and Republican congressional leaders tied to legislation to protect the pharmaceutical industry from liability for the allegedly non-harmful use of thimerosal in vaccines. It's frankly, pretty compelling, but nothing out of the ordinary. Maybe there's wrongdoing and maybe there's not. But that's not the issue.

Getting too caught up in chasing inevitable conflicts of interest often backfires in that it takes the focus off the principles one is fighting for. Ultimately, arguments have to stand on their own, regardless of whether or not they are pure in spirit or bought and paid for.

If one believes in one's principles, believes in one's case and believes that people aren't stupid, then one ought to make an argument rather than an accusation.

I hope you'll keep that in mind while noting the following:

Trading big tobacco for big pharmaceutical. Who is funding smoking bans? Follow the money trail.

In 1998 C. Everett Koop predicted nicotine inhalers and sprays would replace cigarettes for nicotine "addicts."

At the time Robert Woods Johnson Foundation (RWJF) a philanthropic organization which donates money almost exclusively to organizations promoting smoking bans, was reported by Value Line investment services to hold 5.4 percent of Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) stock; afterall the founder of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is none other than the Johnson & Johnson mogul himself.

Johnson & Johnson was distributing Nicotrol products, while Robert Wood Johnson Foundation was distributing millions of dollars as grants to anti-tobacco activists to lobby for smoking bans (see RWJF96). Case closed as of late 1990s.List of donations & grants by RWJF to affect tobacco policy & laws.

But Johnson & Johnson was still distributing Nicotrol pursuant to licensing agreement with Pharmacia, who owns patch and gum patents. Pharmacia was later acquire by Pfizer, which now distributes Nicotrol.GlaxoSmithKline distributes Nicorette, NicoDerm CQ, Commit.

Read a box next time you are in a pharmacy. Those products are manufactured by Pharamcia for Glaxo. And American Cancer Societey is paid a fee by Glaxo for use of their seal (above information comes from Norm Kjono).

In addition, note that Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has paid millions in grants to various American Cancer Society chapters, the very same American Cancer Society that then spends millions in our state MN ($600,000 in 2004 alone) lobbying our politicians for smoking bans so that Johnson & Johnson can sell nicotine in an alternative form -nicotrol, nicoderm, etc. Conflict of interest?

The "studies" and "information" supplied to our lawmakers by these various non-profit health organizations should be regarded as highly dubious at best........just how far down does the rabbit hole go?..........we're still investigating....stay tuned.

UPDATE: This is a reason the media don't jump right into scandals and conspiracy theories. From a mainstream media source --
I know you were just passing along unverified info, but the posting has a substantial factual error (which the original poster uses to frame his/her argument). The RWJF does not "[donate] money almost exclusively to organizations promoting smoking bans." In 2003, according to its IRS Form 990 (available online at, a great site for checking out the financials of nonprofits), the RWJF made about $50 million in direct grants: $18.7 million for programs that promote access to health insurance coverage, $16 million to a center studying health care system changes, $4 million to programs supporting end-of-life care and (finally) $2.2 million for anti-smoking efforts.

I don't have a dog in this hunt - just happen to know that the RWJF is primarily a health-care related charity, not just an anti-smoking charity. Also don't know the truth or falsity of any of the posting's other claims.
Once a debate drops to questions of fact about the motives of the players, the real principles of the issue are lost.

Whatever the percentage of money RWJF gives to health care charities and what percentage to support smoking bans, does that really affect the principles upon which to base the argument?

Update: This thread with more details can be followed at The Attic.