Red Handed: CDC Chief resigns amid reports of Big Tobacco trading
Conspiracy theories run rampant within the vaping community, and the recent resignation of one of America’s top public health officials may add more fuel to the fire. POLITICO reports today that The Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Brenda Fitzgerald has resigned over allegations of buying and selling tobacco stocks just days after accepting her new position.
After Fitzgerald accepted the CDC leadership on July 7, she reportedly purchased stock in more than a dozen tobacco companies. According to documents obtained by POLITICO via the Stock Act, the buys took place between the following months of August and September.
Several purchases include those for one of the largest tobacco companies in the world, Japan Tobacco. Records indicate that Fitzgerald then sold her shares in Big Tobacco by October 26 of the same year. Within the first four months of her tenure, Fitzgerald bought and sold some tens of thousands of dollars in tobacco stocks, drawing the scrutiny of both the Department of Health and Human Services and congressional ethic committees.
CDC Chief Fitzgerald’s long history with Big Tobacco
According to the report, Fitzgerald is no stranger to financial investments in Big Tobacco. Prior to accepting her position as CDC Chief in July, Fitzgerald had previously owned stock in at least five additional tobacco companies, including the Altria Group, British American Tobacco, Imperial Brands, Phillip Morris, and Reynolds American.
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Yet despite her long history of trading in tobacco stocks, she regularly maintained a public stance advocating for tobacco harm reduction though smoking cessation and increased efforts to educate teens of the dangers of smoking addiction.
It is unclear as to whether Fitzgerald’s tobacco stock purchases constitute anything illegal, but at best, her actions signify a massive conflict of interest. The vaping community has long suspected that certain well-placed public health officials are secretly siding with Big Tobacco in the War on Vaping. The FDA deeming regulations of 2015 by the Obama Administration – which reclassify vaping technology as “tobacco products” - were spearheaded by Mitch Zeller of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products. Even though Trump won the Presidency and appointed Scott Gottlieb as the new FDA commissioner, Zeller remains on the job to this day.
Meanwhile, in June of 2016, the CDC released a report entitled Tobacco Use Among Middle and High School Students – United States, 2011-2016. The report famously documents a substantial decline in both teen smoking and vaping during 2016. Yet, the CDC in coordination with the FDA and even the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids continue to label vaping as a gateway to teen smoking.
Conspiracy or not, Fitzgerald’s recent tobacco stock purchases are highly suspect. POLITICO also reports that Fitzgerald made similar stock transitions related to Big Pharma companies. During the same approximate timeframe, she apparently purchased up to $15,000 in stocks in the pharmaceutical companies Merck, Bayer, and the Humana health insurance company. And just days after taking office as head of the CDC, The New York Times reported that Fitzgerald accepted a million-dollar financial contribution from the Coca Cola Company to fund a health and fitness program to fight childhood obesity nonetheless.
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