Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald resigns in disgrace as reports claim she traded in big tobacco stocks shortly after being confirmed to the CDC’s top position
When Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald took over as the head of the CDC on July 7th of last year, she agreed to work toward limiting the exposure and influence of tobacco across the country. Then shortly after being confirmed, she purchased stocks in several big tobacco companies, according to documents obtained by POLITICO. While she claims that the purchases were made without her knowledge, it sent enough shockwaves through the agency to require her immediate resignation.
This latest development has only exacerbated the already tenuous relationship between the vaping community and federal health agencies in America. The stock trades in question were happening at the same time the CDC and FDA were holding steady in their denial of the significant value of vaping as a smoking cessation tool. This has many vaping conspiracy theorists feeling extremely vindicated, but regardless of motives, what does this change mean for the future of the vaping industry?
Conflict Of Interest
Looking into the POLITICO report, Dr. Fitzgerald purchased the stocks in August and September of 2017, including shares with one of the largest tobacco companies in the world, Japan Tobacco. In addition to that, she has made stock purchases totaling tens of thousands of dollars in just four months after being confirmed. The POLITICO documents, obtained thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, show that all of her shares had been sold by the end of October, but the damage was already done.
Dr. Fitzgerald claims these purchases were made without her knowledge and that as soon as she discovered them out she ordered they be sold, but it wasn’t enough to save her job. While it’s still unclear whether or not she actually committed any crimes, at the very least she was complacent in the massive conflict of interest. Not only that, but other similar shady business practices were reported. It was also shown that she made investments in pharmaceutical companies, totaling over $15,000. Even accepting a million-dollar contribution from Coca-Cola to supposedly help fund a childhood obesity program.
History With Tobacco
It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that Dr. Fitzgerald took advantage of her position like she appears to have. Her past should have set off some radars; it wasn’t even the first time she was invested in tobacco companies, all the while publicly claiming they’re a huge public health issue. According to the documents, she’s owned stock in at least five other big tobacco companies, Altria Group, British American Tobacco, Imperial Brands, Philip Morris, and Reynolds American. All of this at the same time she worked as a public health official in the state of Georgia, actively campaigning against the spread of tobacco.
The President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Matthew Myers, blasted Dr. Fitzgerald for her conflict of interest after these latest developments. “It sends two messages, both of which are deeply disturbing. First, it undermines the credibility of a public official when they argue that tobacco is the No. 1 preventable cause of disease. Second, and perhaps even worse, it indicates a public official is willing to put their personal profit above the ethics of investing in a company whose products cause so much harm.”
Stories like this make it even harder for the vaping public to trust health officials. A vocal portion of the community actively believes that agencies like the CDC and FDA are primarily concerned with placing harsh regulations on vaping that will only serve to further equate smoking and vaping in the public eye. Even if these grave concerns are ultimately proven false, the decisions made by Dr. Fitzgerald will still have driven both sides of the vaping debate further apart. Worse yet, work done by diligent and trustworthy researchers across the globe will now face further scrutiny thanks to the greedy choices of one trusted physician.
Do you think Dr. Fitzgerald was genuinely unaware of the tobacco company stocks? If so, do you think that she deserved to keep her job? How can we resolve the tension between the vapers who are skeptical of public health agencies and the doctors who dismiss vaping as merely an alternative form of nicotine intake? Let us know what you think in the comments.