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‘Vaping Congressman’ Hunter takes $42k from Big Tobacco; wants freebies for the troops

Posted by Matt Rowland on

California Rep. Duncan Hunter, otherwise known as “The Vaping Congressman,” is aggressively opposing a new federal policy that will stop Big Tobacco from donating cigars and other freebies to members of the U.S. military.  Advocates of the new legislation argue that smoke-related illnesses among the troops result in over $1.6 billion of preventable medical costs annually. They also question Hunter’s true motivation behind his controversial stance.  As the website Open Secrets reports, Hunter has taken over $42,000 from the tobacco industry since 2010.

On Thursday, September 8, Hunter sent a letter to Commissioner Robert Califf of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) demanding further clarification behind the new regulations.  According to Hunter, banning free tobacco products for the troops via care packages may be a violation of federal law.  Why should Big Tobacco be treated any differently than other American corporations or charity groups?  He also believes that freebies are good form troop morale.

“Tobacco manufacturers and distributors have long taken part in a time-honored tradition of donating tobacco products to service members, often while deployed,” Hunter wrote in his letter. “These donations routinely improve morale and serve to relieve stress. 

“It would be unacceptable for the FDA to prohibit the distribution of tobacco products to service members who are fighting to protect those very rights that may now be restricted.”


Hunter quickly became the poster-politician for the vaping community after a February 11, 2016 incident where he boldly took to vaping during a committee meeting regarding the now official ban on airplane vaping.  So why isn’t Hunter taking this opportunity to promote the donations of electronic cigarettes as a healthier alternative to cigars and other tobacco products?  According to the new regulations, “free samples of cigarettes and free samples of smokeless tobacco, except in qualified adult-only facilities” are also prohibited. 

Is the “The Vaping Congressman” bad for business?

But Hunter may have a point.  Whether or not someone chooses to smoke…or vape, for that matter…is a fundamental right of all Americans.  Should the FDA have the authority to take away that right?  In his letter to the FDA, hunter states, “It would be unacceptable for the FDA to prohibit the distribution of tobacco products to service members who are fighting to protect those very rights that may be restricted.”  But with $42,011 in campaign contributions from Big Tobacco looming over his head, many of his opponents wonder whose interests is the Vaping Congressman truly representing?   


When Duncan Hunter pulled out his vape pen during that congressional hearing, he became an instant sensation among the vaping community as the video went viral.  But after his very provocative endorsement of Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump, his scandal related to using campaign funds to buy video games, and his public scolding of Colin Kaepernick for refusing to stand during the national anthem, some in the vaping community are beginning to take a second look at the outspoken politician.  Is Duncan Hunter becoming bad for business? 


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  • There is no way that including tobacco in a care package will cause never-smokers to start smoking. If a non-smoker finds tobacco in their package they will just trade it for something else.

    Besides that, according the ‘64 Surgeon General’s Report, cigars and pipes are less harmful than cigarettes. On page 86, “Men smoking less than five cigars per day have death rates about the same as non-smokers. […] For current pipe smokers (Table 5), men smoking less than 10 pipefuls per day have death rates very close to those of non-smokers. […] The over-all mortality ratio of 1.05 does not differ statistically from unity.”

    Duncan Hunter is right because there is no rational reason to eliminate tobacco from care packages

    Murray B on

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