Over the past few years, we have heard a lot of strange arguments against electronic cigarettes, but this week, Dr. Stanton Glantz might have topped them all. As a big activist for tobacco control, Glantz has repeatedly bashed ecigarettes and provided constant criticism of the vaping industry. We’ve heard him make a lot of outlandish statements about ecigs, but this week he made a claim that really took us by surprise. He alleges that vapers are endangering smokers because the sight of someone vaping causes a smoker to crave a cigarette. Basically, he thinks if you vape, you will cause a smoker to light up a cigarette and indirectly be responsible for an increased health risk to the general public.
Glantz justified his position by citing a study from the University of Chicago that looked at how young adult smokers reacted to visual cues. Researchers found that when a smoker saw someone use an ecig, they had an increased desire to smoke a cigarette. So based on this theory, Glantz argued that ecigs are damaging even for smokers.
If you take a closer look at the research, there is no mention of other visual cues that trigger cravings among smokers. However, in order to have a better understanding of the impact of vaping on a smoker’s psychological state, we need to know more about reactions from other cues. For instance, many smokers crave cigarettes after a meal, in the car, or while talking on the phone. Others enjoy a smoke while sipping their morning coffee. How powerful are cues like coffee cups, phones, steering wheels, and dinner plates? As a former smoker, I can say that sipping coffee is a much stronger trigger than watching someone vape. Does that mean that coffee is inherently dangerous because it tempts smokers to light up? Of course not! But then again, Glantz isn’t trying to outlaw coffee. His target is the electronic cigarette.
Although this latest outburst is pretty far-fetched, it’s really not surprising when you look at previous statements from Glantz. He is famous for making bold claims using twisted facts and unsubstantiated research. In fact, his typical scientific process is to make a hypothesis and then dig around until he finds enough related research to piece together “proof” to back his claims. There is no objectivity involved and he has no interest in learning truth. His research is purposeful and invested in solely proving his own opinions as true.
We can trace his bogus claims back to 2008 when he published a study to prove that secondhand smoke causes breast cancer. He never actually did any scientific research, but he combined outdated research linking smoking to lung cancer and paired with it recent data about breast cancer. By making a few vague correlations, he made the case that exposure to secondhand smoke could lead to subsequent breast cancer.
It didn’t take long for Glantz’s study to be completely debunked. We now know it was just junk science after the International Journal of Epidemiology published contradictory evidence in the Oxford University Press. After studying more than 200,000 women over a span of three and a half years, researchers concluded, “The incidence of breast cancer is similar in women who did and did not report passive exposure to tobacco smoke”.
Even with his breast cancer claims debunked, Glantz went on to release further studies. Just a few months ago, we saw his bogus research appear in JAMA Pediatrics. This time, he argued that ecigs were causing kids to start smoking. He selected data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey of 2011 and 2012 to justify his position. However, his theory was illogical and his supporting evidence was full of holes. If he really wanted to prove that kind of theory, he would need to follow vaping adolescents for at least a few years to determine how many (if any) went on to become smokers.
If you follow the logic of Stanton Glantz, then you can prove just about anything to be true. However, his most recent allegation that vaping is harmful to smokers is downright ludicrous. What will it take for Glantz to stop this madness?