Addiction Scholarships

Were you just as outraged as we were to see the vaping industry resort to using food product logos and packaging to promote their products to kids?  Now e-cigarette and vaporizer sellers are getting their brands listed on university websites by, get this, offering college scholarships!  And it’s not to just to some obscure colleges, ivy league schools were also included, such as Harvard.

For a chance to earn a $250 to $5,000 scholarship, all the applicant has to do is write about the dangers of smoking and why vaping is the better alternative.  One company wants the applicant to go so far as to recommend different e-cigarettes.  According to one owner of a vaping review site that is offering a scholarship, “many in the industry are former smokers and want to help teens avoid tobacco.”  He even goes as far as admitting it is a marketing tool, but does it go farther than that, and become a thinly veiled disguise to get kids hooked on a different type of nicotine product and to do research marketing for the vaping industry?

The head of the American Vaping Association defends the practice saying it is no different than a major beer manufacturer that provides scholarships for minority students, including to the American Indian College Fund.  A quick search also found Burger King, Coca-Cola, Starbucks and Panera among food and beverage companies offering scholarships, but wouldn’t you be outraged to hear a major tobacco company giving money to students, especially if the hopeful recipients had to write in favor of tobacco, a highly addictive product?  And perhaps we should be outraged that a beer manufacturer is providing money for scholarships, especially when the Native American populations have a higher rate of alcoholism.

According to a director for the American Cancer Society lobbying arm in Washington, “this is all about marketing.”  And offering scholarships is one way for a vaping company to get “their link on a university financial-aid page or website.”  It would also seem the university is supporting vaping.  “Harvard, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Pittsburgh and others” ended up with vaping scholarships on their financial-aid directories until the Associated Press (AP) asked about them.  A spokesman at one of the universities said “we’re not interested in being a platform for tobacco or vaping.” The sites have since been removed at the colleges that were contacted, but how many others don’t even know about the scholarships?

The vaping industry says their products are meant for adults trying to quit smoking, but just recently the FDA came down on the vaping industry for promoting flavors meant to attract youth and for allowing vaping devices to to sold to underage purchasers through online sales.  For the record Florida law requires e-cigarette purchasers to be 18 years old while other states and/or communities have raised the tobacco age to 21 and include e-cigarettes in the definition of tobacco.

There is no legitimate reason for these scholarships other than the industry’s financial gain in future users.

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