Fact Check – US Government Officials Didn’t Say Crack Pipes Would Be Distributed in Safer Drug Kits


Confusion circulated on social media in February 2022 over whether the Biden administration would distribute crack pipes as part of safer drug kits. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and White House press secretary Jen Psaki both said they never mentioned the pipes would be included.

An article (archive.is/iVqPa) published by The Washington Free Beacon appears to be the catalyst for claims (here), (here) that HHS was awarding $30 million in grants (which allegedly included tips) to nonprofits and local governments to help make drug use safer for people who use drugs.

On February 7, Washington Free Beacon reported (archive.is/iVqPa) that an HHS spokesperson said the kits “will provide users with pipes to smoke crack, crystal meth, and” any illicit substance “.

The Biden administration, however, has publicly refuted this claim. During the February 9 White House press conference (here), PSAKI answered a reporter’s question (see 10:47) about the existence of crack pipes in “safe smoking kits funded by the administration, saying “they were never part of the kit, that was an inaccurate report”.

PSAKI went on to say that the contents of safe smoking kits may include “alcohol swabs, lip balm and other materials to promote hygiene and reduce the transmission of diseases like HIV and hepatitis”. PSAKI then referred to the February 9 press release (here) intended to explain the administration’s harm reduction strategies to save lives amid an epidemic of drug use.

Reuters has sought comment from the Washington Free Beacon and HHS on the conflicting claims.

In an email response, Washington Free Beacon spokesman Brent Scher told Reuters via email that he “supports the story of our reporter Patrick Hauf” and pointed to guidelines posted on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Harm Reduction Program grant program 2022 (here) as evidence that smoking kits are eligible for funding as part of harm reduction efforts. Scher added, “HHS has confirmed to us that the smoking kits it intends to fund are for crack smoking.”

The document, even in its earliest archived version that Reuters could find (here), does not specifically mention the pipes.

An HHS spokesperson called the article published by the Washington Free Beacon “inaccurate” when asked by Reuters via email. “The staff never said or confirmed (sic) that the pipes were part of the kits (this question was never asked),” they said.

In response to this, Scher said, “It’s true that they didn’t explicitly say the pipes were in the kits. Specifically, they said they don’t specify what governments put in the kits.

VERDICT

False. The government never said crack smoking pipes would be included in safer drug kits. HHS confirmed this, and the outlet that first published the claim acknowledged that the government never said such pipes would be part of the kits.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Learn more about our fact-checking work here.

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