ISO the worst anti-tobacco junk science

by Carl V Phillips

I will resume my regular responding and debunking shortly.  In the meantime, I thought I would crowdsource the following question:  What do you think are among the worst examples of research papers or other writings making scientific claims about e-cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, cigarettes, and other tobacco products, or about consumption of those products, their effects, etc.

By “worst” I am thinking of some vague combination of especially junk science or overreaching scientific claims, along with the specific claims having some importance for future policy or current thinking (because of the content or the influence of the authors).  I am not actually restricting this to the anti side (i.e., I am also interested in junk science that is in the pro direction), though I suspect there is little of that to be found that I have not already commented on.  It can be a particular paper, a body of papers, or just a repeated claim.

Please post your nominations in the comments here, or email them to me if you prefer to avoid blog comments (my email is cphillips).  Links are highly welcome, but anything is fine — I can track down the original.  Feel free to suggest as many as you might want, to duplicate suggestions, or whatever else you want.  You can explain why you think a suggestion is particularly bad, or just suggest it without comment.

Thanks in advance for your contributions.

UPDATE: In response to a question I received, suggestions about particular repeated “expert” claims are welcome, even if there is no particular key paper they refer to, so long as they seem to be systematically claimed and not just some one-off gaffe.  For such topics, multiple examples of the claim being repeated are highly welcome.

24 responses to “ISO the worst anti-tobacco junk science

  1. Carl V Phillips

    …and I will start by commenting on my own post as placeholders here:

    1. Gateway claims (as readers know, I am already focused on that one).

    2. Popular overestimation of the risk from ETS, as evidenced by this polling data: (h/t Audrey Silk)

  2. Pretty much anything with S. A Glantz in the author list?

    One thing that seems increasingly ‘popular’ which, while a favourite of Glantz, seems to be increasing in general is the issue of ultrafine particles e.g. ( and

  3. This has to be one of the worst I’ve see recently

  4. From our Canadian neighbors. Toronto Public Health. The photo was discovered to be an ISTOCK.COM image and has been used to fuel the hype and negative propoganda on purpose to ban the use of E-Cigarettes. .

  5. Gotta protect the kids, with as much bubble-wrap junk science as possible:

    Worst use of measurable data and statistics award nominee:

    Worst ignorance empirical data as a justification for nonsensical workplace policy nominee:

    Least useful data related to inhalation of vapor nominees

    Worst aggregation of science leading to non-sequiter claims nominee:

    Click to access ecigarette-secondhand-aerosol.pdf

  6. My nephew is in the Army, and he sent me this link last week to their website for quitting smoking. They are claiming that e-cigs cause lipoid pneumonia and asthma.

    Funny thing, the reference to lipoid pneumonia was not a study showing cause, but an individual case study, about a woman who had other multiple health problems as well. But of course, the pneumonia was blamed on her e-cig use. And all G.I.’s must be warned and informed.

  7. These are my favourites:

    “E-Cigarettes A Scientific Review”, by Glantz et al.


    “Reduced incidence of admissions for myocardial infarction associated with public smoking ban: before and after study” (aka the “Helena Miracle”, by Glantz et al.

  8. Rather ridiculous than worst. E-cigarettes harmful for the smokers, because when smokers saw someone vaping it made them want to smoke as much as if they saw someone smoking a cigarette…..
    More nonsense by Dr. Glantz on this topic:

  9. Not sure if done already but a lot of statistic are used from the following site based on 2011/12 data
    For example they say 6.8% ever use is equal to 1.8 million. But that is based on all 26 million not the 13 million aware users. It don’t know but I suspect the 6.8% is calculated so it will be the highest percentage of ever use. It would seem that they deliberate misrepresent the data to get the higher numbers.

  10. The presentations by the Toronto Medical officer of health is a low point in fear mongering, all the unsubstantiated myths were collected in one place and presented to a disinterested city council who did not even once question the dribble. It is a disappointment that a physician would not present one bit of science The gateway myth is a particular irksome claim that has gained traction and is just plain fabrication. As a heart surgeon I see the tremendous benefit and in health care we make daily decisions on risk versus benefit with actually less information than what is known about ecigs.

    • Atakan Befrits

      Dear Gopa, I have Sweden as one of my fields. Blanket ban on all ecig and a 0% medical professional official acceptance of Low Nitrosamine Smokeless as 98% less harmful than smoking (the science upon which a lot of the ecig science is based). Where are you based? Thank you!

    • Carl V Phillips

      That one is undoubtedly wrong. I have not looked at it closely enough to figure out if it was glaring junk, or just the odd result that occasionally happens in honest science. Yeah, yeah, I know: *honest* science by anti-tobacco people??? But it is always theoretically possible.

  11. This one surfaced today, and has all the hallmarks you ask for: Reduced-nicotine cigarettes ‘do not lead to increased smoking intensity’

    and the actual (paywalled) study:

    So even though this is a tiny study (n=72), was conducted over a short period for each type of cigarette (7 days), they couldnt actually tell if the participants were sticking to the protocol with 44% admitting cheating in the last week, and with results that directly contradict all evidence of compensatory smoking, this study is sufficient evidence to provide the FDA with a mandate to decrease nicotine in cigarettes to negligible levels.

    Because thats how science works.

  12. Any of Talbot’s Pfizer-funded junk would do. I believe she started the nanoparticles epidemic. The all-time classic, though, has to be her study based on watching YouTube vids of vapers. I think the conclusion was something like, “Vaping must be bad because they inhale longer than smokers”. It took near $850,000 to get there. The links can be found in any toilet aka medical journal such as tobaccocontril.bmj, for example:

  13. Pick me, pick me, pick me! How about this…?

    “Giving an R rating to future movies with smoking would be expected to reduce the number of teen smokers by nearly 1 in 5 (18%) and prevent one million deaths from smoking among children alive today”

  14. There is this Glantz posting which quotes this “study” which is full of assumptions that are completely wrong.

    • Jake, Offerman is simply extending the sort of research everyone was happy with him doing on secondhand smoke. From TobakkoNacht p. 228:

      You may remember that at the start of this section I promised to look at two major studies, one by Offermann in 2002, and one by Klepeis in 2007. Many of the general limitations in these two studies have already been dealt with here, but there are still a few points to add. Offermann measured particulates in cars under several conditions, but gave, at least in my opinion, enormously undue emphasis to the unlikely “I’m gonna smoke up a storm with all the windows sealed up tight so I can suffocate Little Boozums In Da Bassinet!” scenario. Indeed, with the windows rolled up tight and the ventilation carefully shut off for maximum suffocation jollies, the PM 2.5 level headed up into the 2,000 ppm range for about three minutes.
      Of course Offermann couldn’t totally ignore the fact that some parents might occasionally crack open a window while smoking so he also ran one version with the driver’s window opened three inches. In that scenario the air in the car headed up toward the 100 ppm range for five minutes. If that were done twice a day, every day with your little one by your side, they’d be getting, on average, an extra 1 ppm of particulate matter added on to the 50 ppm or so they’d be likely to be getting if they drove around a city with you all day anyway!
      Offermann’s conclusion however, ends up being: “Indoor concentrations of ETS can be especially significant in automobiles due to the small indoor air volume,” while referring specifically to the windows rolled up scenario and confusing the minutes of exposure to 24 hours a day of exposure. Why would he do that? Impossible to say, although applying the same sort of lens we applied to Jones/Breysse might offer some insight: Offermann’s study was funded by the “Tobacco Free Project, San Francisco Department of Public Health, paid for by Proposition 99, the 1988 Tobacco Tax Initiative.”
      Do you think the funding just might have played a role in how the study was structured and presented?

      Same games, just a new ballpark.

      – MJM

  15. Most of the posts here predate the Kandel & Kandel study. That is one breathtaking pile of idiocy. It one thing to discredit the field of tobacco research, but to slaughter the credibility of the Nobel Prize and the entire enterprise of science, all in one short paper, is quite an accomplishment. As a scientist, I couldn’t be more embarrassed.

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