posted by Carl V. Phillips
Recently the Stanton Glantz, of the anti-tobacco activist organization that goes by the misleading name, “University of California San Francisco”, jumped fully into anti-THR lying. Many of you will know Glantz as one of the most unabashed anti-smoking liars[*] in the world.
[*In fairness, unlike with some of the others featured in this blog, there is some debate about whether Glantz is knowingly lying or is just so clueless that the lie the fact he is claiming to be expert in the matters he is spouting off about. There is also the possibility that he falls into the "so incompetent that he does not even realize he is clueless" category. It is not clear which would be better.]
Glantz is the most aggressive pusher of absurd claims that small reductions in second hand smoke exposure (e.g., merely banning smoking in bars) result in 10% or 20% or even 40% reduction in heart attacks in the population. That should perhaps be thought of as an final exam question rather than a serious claim: If you think the claim is even remotely plausible, then you should have your diploma revoked — your high school diploma.
Glantz’s other favorite is claiming that if there were no smoking in movies then 50,000 or 100,000 or even 200,000 fewer American youth would start smoking each year. I suppose someone might believe that and still deserve their diploma — but only if they were monastically home schooled. Anyone who has actually spent time around teenagers and still believes that also fails badly.
In a recent blog post, Glantz referred to the German study that measured the gasses released into the air from e-cigarette use, the study whose conclusions Elaine Keller thoroughly debunked previously on this page. Since we have already covered the debunking of the claims made by the authors, and showed that their results did not suggest there is a hint of a risk of hazard from “second hand vapor”, I will not repeat those points. The previous post stands as a pre-debunking of what Glantz just wrote and thus is all the more embarrassing for him. (Chances are he never read it; people like him have no interest in the truth, and so do not read to learn.)
I refer to you back to our debunking with this quote from Glantz’s statement:
putting detectable levels of several significant carcinogens and toxins in the air
Glantz — like the study’s authors — apparently does not realize that “so utterly trivial that it cannot possibly be viewed as being worth worrying about” is a subset of “detectable”. In this case, that is exactly what was found.
But Glantz’s lies and errors were not limited to not understanding that the study helped confirm there is nothing to worry about.
there were still elevated levels of acetic acid, acetone, isoprene, formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, averaging around 20% of what the conventional cigarette put into the air
We have already covered much about this (hey! progress!) in previous posts with the tag “chemicals”. Though, I am not sure we ever mentioned that more of that evil acetic acid he is so worried about is emitted by a salad than by an e-cigarette (most people call it vinegar).
To cover some new ground, consider that “20%” figure. First, this is presumably intended to trick the reader into thinking that the trivial emissions from an e-cigarette are roughly 20% as bad as those from smoking. But, these particular chemicals are not the ones that create much worry (whether well-founded or not) about environmental tobacco smoke. It might also be that the emissions are about 20% of the exposure to those chemicals resulting from a nearby explosion of an artillery shell. But that obviously does not make an e-cigarette 20% as bad as environmental artillery exposure.
But it is worse than that. Let us imagine that the absurd falsehood that Glantz was (presumably intentionally) communicating were true, and that environmental vapor exposure were 20% as harmful as ETS. Consider his conclusion (grammar muddle and incorrect reference to vapor as smoke in the original):
No one should smoke e-cigarettes indoors that are free of other forms of tobacco smoke pollution.
This claim (the claim being the “should”) is obviously false. If there is any rationality to no-smoking policies at all, then there are some venues where smoking clearly should be banned, but others where it is just barely on the positive side to have a ban (and, further along the spectrum are those where it is on the negative side to ban). So if you now consider vaping, which produces virtually no aesthetic impact and only (even under this absurd hypothetical) 20% the risk from ETS, then clearly the venues that are just on the positive side for a smoking ban are not on the positive side for a vaping ban.
This is the most basic Economics 101 of honest and rational policy. Of course, Glantz et al. are neither honest nor rational. They are merely pushing any policy that inches toward prohibition. But by pretending to be having an honest policy discussion, he opens himself up to honest policy analysis, and that analysis shows he is wrong (though probably merely clueless about what he is saying rather than lying in this case).
After receiving quite a few criticisms of his call for vaping bans by people with a better command of reality than his, Glantz responded to one observation, made by Elaine (and others too in other forums). She pointed out, as in the previous post on this page, that the concentrations of the chemicals from exhaled vapor, even in a small unventilated space, were in the range of a fraction of 1% of the exposure limits that OSHA sets for workers.
Glantz, out of dishonesty or cluelessness, responded as if Elaine were saying, “these exposures sneak in under the OSHA limit and so that alone makes them ok”. He argued that it is acceptable to expose workers to possibly mildly hazardous levels of chemicals because that is part of their job, and so exposure to bystanders should be held to a more restrictive standard. His point is reasonable, but is not actually a response to the criticism.
Elaine was not saying “these are lower than the OSHA standards and that alone is what makes them unimportant”. She was saying, in effect, “for those of you (basically everyone) who have no idea what these X ppb numbers mean, here is some perspective,” and saying, “this is so clearly below worrisome levels that OSHA allows more than 100 times that concentration before they require remedial action.” So even if OSHA were allowing 10 times the harmful level (which they very much try to not do) there would still be a 10-fold margin before the measured exposure from vaping was harmful.
The absolute best part of this, though deserves its own post, but is a bit off-topic here, so I put it here. If you found this interesting you will definitely want to read that.
No one should have to breathe these chemicals, whether they come out of a conventional or e-cigarette.
What if they come out of an air freshener, which intentionally puts some of these chemicals into the air? What if they come from a kitchen, a reliable source of some of them? What if they come from cosmetics?
Oh, wait, those do not matter. Glantz only pretends to care about these chemicals, or about people. He only cares about cigarettes, and now apparently, about e-cigarettes.
But wait. What if those chemicals came from Stanton Glantz? After all, we have previously observed the vaper (i.e., a human body) seems to put out more formaldehyde than the vapor. This applies to non-vapers too, including a puritanical busybody who is not smoking or vaping. I think this is an utterly unacceptable health risk. Moreover, having Glantz at large undermines efforts to denormalize junk science and dishonesty in the eyes of children. Yes, I think it is pretty clear that we need to seal him up away from other humans.
Oh, and take away his computer too. After all, letting him blog would also represent a dangerous exposure because…. Um, because….
Damn, I am just not as good at making up fake scientific claims as he is.
[UPDATE 27 Sept: More on the lies and liars on this topic at Dick Puddlecote.]