Just yesterday, I put the finishing touches on an article titled, "10 Worst Bogus Health Stories of 2018." It turns out that my publication was slightly premature. I should have waited a few more hours.
Stanton Glantz is a professor at the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF). He became famous for exposing the shenanigans of the tobacco industry, namely its dishonest public relations campaign to downplay the harmful effects of smoking. As an anti-smoking activist, his efforts have undoubtedly helped save many, many lives.
Unfortunately, Dr. Glantz has become something of an ideologue. His (justifiable) animosity toward the tobacco industry has been turned (unjustifiably) to other industries, such as vaping. On Twitter, Dr. Glantz posted this mind-boggling tweet:
What?!?! Dr. Glantz believes that it's better for vapers to smoke cigarettes instead? If smokers actually follow his advice, they will die. Period. So, it's completely fair to ask, "What is he smoking?"
Even more bizarre than his statement -- which is objectively untrue, given that the UK's NHS has declared vaping to be 95% safer than smoking cigarettes -- is the fact that the paper he cites to justify his belief concludes the exact opposite of what he said. Here is an excerpt of the paper's conclusion:
"Exclusive use of e-cigarettes appears to result in measurable exposure to known tobacco-related toxicants, generally at lower levels than cigarette smoking. Toxicant exposure is greatest among dual users..."
In other words, people who smoke and vape are exposed to the highest levels of toxicants, but people who only vape are exposed to lower levels of toxicants. That's common sense, and it's precisely the opposite of what Dr. Glantz tweeted.
This isn't the first time he's done that. In February, he tweeted this:
This tweet isn't a blatant lie, like the previous tweet. But it is incredibly misleading. If we assume that Dr. Glantz's data is correct, then it shows that daily e-cigarette users have a 79% increase in the odds of a heart attack. But the increased odds of a heart attack among smokers was 172%. That means if a smoker switches to vaping, he will lower his odds of a heart attack. Once again, the data in the paper are in direct contradiction to what Dr. Glantz tweeted.
This tweet angered Bloomberg Opinion columnist Joe Nocera so much that he called it "fraudulent."
What Is Going on at UCSF?
Stanton Glantz isn't the only problematic individual at UCSF. Indeed, the university has become an academic home for conspiracy theorists, including anti-vaxxers. The university recently invited Gary Ruskin, an anti-GMO activist, to give a talk to students about how biotech scientists were knowingly poisoning the public.
The bottom line is that UCSF is peddling false information that is severely harming public health and science literacy. The truly infuriating thing is that your tax dollars pay for it -- and there's essentially nothing you can do about it.