Nonprofit Chronicles

Journalism about foundations, nonprofits and their impact

The government last week released encouraging news about youth vaping. It is down by 60 percent over the last two years.

It’s too early to be certain — the results of this latest government survey are not strictly comparable with data from past years — but it appears as if the youth vaping epidemic is over.

ou would think this would be reason to cheer. But anti-vaping groups like the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and the Truth Initiative instead downplayed the decline, focusing only on those teenagers who continue to vape. As always, they ignored the interests of the millions of adult smokers who have used e-cigarettes, which are less dangerous than combustible tobacco, to kick their habit.

In my latest story for Medium, I look at how the data released by the CDC and FDA was distorted or taken out of context by the groups that want to ban flavored e-cigarettes. I also try to put the vaping problem in perspective, noting, among other things, that binge drinking among teens is a bigger problem that gets far less attention. But Bloomberg Philanthropies is not funding campaigns against binge drinking; it is spending $160 million to prevent youth vaping.

Increasingly, I see the story of the anti-vaping movement as a classic example of a point made the other day on Substack by Freddie deBoer: That “nonprofits are self-serving entities that exist to perpetuate their funding and the jobs of their workers.”

“This is not an allegation of cynicism on the part of any individuals,” he goes on to say, “but a function of the nature of systems.”

Like all of us, nonprofits are influenced by incentives–their biggest is to please donors.

Why else would Tobacco-Free Kids and Truth Initiative continue to crusade against vaping when there’s growing evidence that they are doing more harm than good? You can read my story here on Medium.

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