Within a couple of weeks of a fake gateway effect discovery, more bogus science emerges, stretched to the limits of credulity and then hyped beyond to the media and into the grateful arms of the suggestible, wide-eyed world of tobacco control. This time it is Rachel Grana and colleagues at University of California at San Francisco, part of Professor Stanton Glantz’ group, which is rapidly becoming a slurry gusher of black propaganda, media-political spin and unethical practice. The release follows an established track:
1. Article published in an unsuitable journal, in this case JAMA Internal Medicine, A Longitudinal Analysis of Electronic Cigarette Use and Smoking Cessation, laden with qualifications and caveats draws a conclusion it shouldn’t, but gets past peer reviewers who presumably don’t come across this sort of thing that often.
2. Press release that can easily mislead through use of statistical terms of art in common language is used to kick off the hype: E-Cigarettes Not Associated With More Smokers Quitting, Reduced Consumption],
3. Uncritical news coverage that takes the bait and builds on this bias – eg. Electronic cigarettes won’t help smokers quit, study claims.
4. But wait… not in the plan… news outlets getting more sceptical (Reuters) and established tobacco control behemoths push back, ashamed of what is being done within their discipline.
I will leave it to the restrained and politely disparaging response of no less than the American Cancer Society to wield the knife on this one. I can’t emphasise how important it is for reputable, if overly cautious, organisations to speak out about contamination of public health science with activist-driven pseudo-science. ACS’s response is very welcome:
A study embargoed until 4:00 PM ET Monday, March 24, 2014 concludes that the use of electronic cigarettes by smokers is not associated with greater rates of quitting cigarettes or reduced cigarette consumption after one year. The study appears in JAMA Internal Medicine. In the study, Rachel Grana and colleagues at the University of California, San Francisco followed 949 cigarette smokers, 88 of whom also were using e-cigarettes, for one year. At the end of that year, 9 of the 88 e-cigarette users reported that they had quit using regular cigarettes. On the basis of those data, the authors conclude that e-cigarettes do not help smokers quit. Below are comments from Thomas J. Glynn, PhD, director, Cancer Science and Trends and International Cancer Control in response to the study.
• Unfortunately, this study has numerous limitations, which the authors acknowledge, such as “the low numbers of e-cigarette users in this sample… may have limited our statistical power to detect a significant relationship between e-cigarette use and quitting” and “we lacked detailed data on e-cigarette use characteristics, such as frequency, duration, use patterns, or motivation for use.”
• These limitations severely reduce the ability of the research team to make any meaningful conclusions about their data and call into question the headline in the news release accompanying the study, i.e. “E-cigarettes Not Associated With More Smokers Quitting, Reduced Consumption.” This conclusion simply cannot be justified on the basis of the data collected by the authors.
• What this study does do, however, is re-emphasize the need for more independent, objective, responsible research on e-cigarettes to help address what role, if any, they can play in reducing the human and economic costs of tobacco use and cigarette smoking in the U.S.
• It also reinforces the need for the FDA to assert its authority to provide regulations for e-cigarettes and similar nicotine-delivery products which can inform consumers and protect and promote public health. The American Cancer Society and its advocacy arm, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action network (ACS CAN) have been, and continue to be, strong promoters of this approach, i.e. calling for more independent, objective, responsible e-cigarette research and FDA regulations for these products.
A more detailed (and more bruising critique) on this from Mike Siegel: New Study on Electronic Cigarettes by UCSF Researchers is Not Only Bogus Science, But is Also Dishonest. Dr Siegel’s despair and disgust is all too apparent:
I’m sad to say that this is complete garbage. It is truly an example of bogus, or junk science.
I believe that these researchers have a pre-determined conclusion that e-cigarettes are ineffective and that they are trying to manufacture results that support their pre-determined conclusion.
I don’t know if Stan ‘Drowning Man’ Shatenstein was referring to this study as he wagged his metaphorical finger at me and readers of this blog in his increasingly petulant idiosyncratic comments following my last blog on dodgy practice at UCSF. But this is what he said his comment of Friday 21st March:
And wait for next week. I would never break an embargo, but there’s more coming out that should give this list pause.
I suspect he was referring to this, because nothing else of note has emerged to thrill he prohibitionists since then and the press release embargoed for release on Monday 24th was available on 20th. Yes, this has caused a pause – a pause to dismiss yet more garbage disinformation from the heroes of tobacco control research. A pause yes, but yet another waste of more time clearing up after dissembling pseudo-science.