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The problem with Stanton Glantz

19, Jan, 2016

By Tom Pruen

Stan Glantz is not a very good scientist. Examples of his ineptitude, and others’ criticism of it, are trivially easy to find. Some interesting examples (a definitive list would run to several pages) include:

 Clive Bates’ chiding Glantz about gateway effect claims “Cease and desist: making false claims about the gateway effect

Michael Siegel criticising Glantz on the same point “Glantz Tells Public There is No Question that E-Cigarettes are a Gateway to Smoking, But Today's Monitoring the Future Data Show the Opposite

Clive Bates’ commentary on misrepresentation of particulate emissions “Scientific sleight of hand: constructing concern about ‘particulates’ from e-cigarettes

Carl Phillips on the same point “What is wrong with ecig particulate claims – the simple version

There’s also a precursor to his most recent work, which shows the increasing loss of patience and dismay with the poor standard of work: Clive Bates’  “Rogue research group opens the slurry gusher again” and Micheal Siegel’s “New Study on Electronic Cigarettes by UCSF Researchers is Not Only Bogus Science, But is Also Dishonest”.  Carl Phillips was already out of patience, but his response was extremely blunt “Stanton Glantz is such a liar that even the ACS balks: his latest ecig gateway ‘study’”.

This came to a head recently with Stan publishing an extended and ‘improved’ meta-analysis of the use of e-cigs as a smoking cessation product. This was sufficiently poor that it attracted the ire of not only the usual commentators, but also a more wide ranging group of Public Health experts.

Clive Bates – “Who will be duped by error-strewn ‘meta-analysis’ of e-cigarette studies?

Carl Phillips, with a robust criticism about pretty much every aspect of the ‘study’  “Sunday Science Lesson: What is “meta-analysis”? (and why was Glantz’s inherently junk?)

A series of quotes intended for the media via the Science Media Centre “expert reaction to meta-analysis looking at e-cigarette use and smoking cessation”.

Which brings us to the problem with Stanton Glantz, and it isn’t that he is a poor excuse for a scientist.

Stanton Glantz is an EXTREMELY effective lobbyist.

The veneer of science is just to enable this lobbying. This is reflected quite well in his response to the criticism of the recent study on his own blog (where the comments section is subject to more editorial control than most formal publications).  He ducks, weaves, distorts and makes a pretty good job of pretending that he has rebutted all the points raised. There’s a great post from Carl Phillips on this point – “Glantz responds to his (other) critics, helping make my point”.

Since Glantz lobbies on the basis of his own ideology, and shapes his science to support it, the conclusions of any of his publications can be pretty well predicted in advance.

Fortunately, Glatnz’s attempts to transfer to other areas of policy have not gone as well – as evidenced by his work on mobile phones -

He has also occasionally overstepped the mark – as in the case of a partisan attack on a political movement by linking it to the tobacco industry “Study: Tea Party Organizations Have Ties To Tobacco Industry Dating Back To 1980s”. Not surprisingly, there was some backlash, particularly about the use of government grant money for political messaging.

This didn’t stop him being awarded (as Principal Investigator) a further $20 million, over five years, in government funding, ensuring plenty of future publications. Clearly, there is plenty of appetite for his work.

Attempting to engage with someone who is a skilled manipulator of public (and governmental) opinion on the details of science is a losing game. Stan Glantz is a lobbyist, and interactions and rebuttals of his propaganda need to be based on this reality, not his self-identification (or gratuitous funding) as a scientist.

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