Imagine being offered a grant for $7.5 million and turning it down. That’s exactly what health experts think the historically black Tennessee school Meharry Medical College should do. They have been offered a grant from the vape giant Juul and plan to accept. While they could still potentially reverse their decision, reports from the school state that Juul will be establishing the Meharry Center for the Study of Social Determinants of Health. When the school announced that they’d been chosen to receive the grant, which just so happens to also be the second largest grant the school has ever been offered, they were met with immediate criticism by members of the community, according to The New York Times.
Several African American health experts spoke out slamming the school for even considering such an offer. They took issue with a medical school receiving a donation from a company that has a questionable reputation in the world of health. Juul’s popular e-cigarette devices have been linked to the drastic increase of nicotine addiction in youth. While it was intended to be a product to help longtime smokers quit the habit, the FDA has been after it for years as more and more kids are getting their hands on the flavored Juul pods.
To put Juul even further out of the health industry’s good graces, the company is now partially owned by Altria, a tobacco company. Smoking is one of the highest causes of death in the United States, and these statistics are even higher for that of the African American community. For Meharry Medical College to accept money from a company in association with the tobacco industry simply doesn’t make sense to many.
LaTroya Hester, a spokeswoman for the National African American Tobacco Prevention Network, is one of the people who stood up against receiving the grant from Juul. She said that Juul as a company isn’t different whatsoever than the major tobacco giants from the past.
“Juul doesn’t have African-Americans’ best interests in mind. The truth is that Juul is a tobacco product, not much unlike its demon predecessors.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Ross McKinney Jr., chief science officer at the Association of American Medical Colleges, shared her sentiment regarding the grant.
“What do you do with money from a source that is in some way contaminated? Tobacco has a specific history of hiring scientists to confuse the overall picture so that policies that might be restrictive would not go forward.”