March 25th, 2014

Rogue research group opens the slurry gusher again

Slurry gusher: over-claim, over-hype and then spread it...

Slurry gusher: over-claim, over-hype and spread it…

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.

28 comments to Rogue research group opens the slurry gusher again

  • […] You gotta know a study is pretty bad when even the ACS, a strong proponent of strict e-cigarette regulations, says the researchers can’t draw any meaningful conclusions. You can read the rest of Bates’ comments here. […]

  • I got this site from my friend who told mee about thnis web page and at the mpment this timme I
    am browsing this website and reading very informative articles here.

  • Dragonmum

    I feel the same Jonathan but the display put on by the Welsh “Health?” Minister has me up and really mad. Time to go on the attack and stop defending something that needs no defence from anyone. Have just posted an attack in my local Welsh rag (online) and will repeat it in print version. We HAVE to stop being defensive – don’t bother trying to prove things – we’ve given them proof, they ignore it. Attack!

  • Jonathan Bagley

    I get very frustrated reading about these surveys. The Anti Recreational Nicotine Industry is telling us, the vapers, why we are buying ecigs and then telling us why we are wasting our money. It’s rather like coffee drinkers being told they drink coffee to stay awake while driving, and then told this is ineffective.

    Why do supposedly intelligent and well-informed journalists give credibility to these ludicrously contrived anti-ecig campaigns? I listened to a Nicky Campbell phone in on R5L. Contributors were allowed to get away with, “we don’t know what’s in them”, “they are not regulated”.

    Is there any point in responding? It’s like arguing with a small child with ice cream round its mouth, standing next to the fridge, maintaining he’s not been inside. I think now, the best thing I can do is to go about my daily business puffing away and telling anyone who objects to call the Police.

    • Clive Bates

      Hi Jonathan

      I share your frustration. We can only try to educate and challenge this garbage… I set out my response to many of these arguments in a letter to Vivienne Nathanson. I think coffee is an interesting comparator – albeit not inhaled. Strictly speaking we don’t know what’s in each cup, what the caffeine dose is, what de novo products have been created during a roasting process that is not usually conducted in pharmaceutical manufacturing conditions. We do know that it contains several carcinogens, metals and other potentially harmful substances.

      It’s just that we have evolved sensible ‘risk politics’ for coffee, and we are doing the opposite for e-cigs and liquids.

      • You’ve not commented here on the launch of JTI’s Ploom in Japan — which bans nicotine-based e-cigarettes. Japan is treating the Ploom pods as pipe tobacco.

        Does this suggest that Vaping can coexist together with traditional nicotine-tobacco boundaries?

        Many continue to (wrongly) assume that vaping requires a nicotine-based solution — which intellectually gets you into this sort of funky my-body my-rights position that would equally apply to lots of drugs that you might like to be able to buy untaxed and unregulated.

  • […] Clive Bates, voormalig medewerker bij de Britse overheid, trekt op zijn website The Counterfactual van leer tegen de […]

  • john

    Clive there is a rule in science that statements like: ” X could be as dangerous as smoking” are mostly deliberate spoilers aimed at confusing the public, for some ulterior purpose.

    The following example is from New scientists Feedback:
    “Attend to their sugared words

    FOOD, treacherous food!
    On 5 March the World Health Organization recommended we halve the amount of sugar in our diets. When we saw this, we remembered a prominent report in The Guardian newspaper the day before: “Diets high in meat, eggs and dairy could be as harmful to health as smoking“.

    Call Feedback a sour cynic, but we wondered whether that could have been spoon-fed as a “spoiler” to spread confusion and doubt about the WHO recommendation. It certainly turned out that there was much less to the story than met the eye. It was based what people aged 55 to 60 had eaten in the 24 hours before a survey (8 March, p 7)……”

    Truth is that inhaling lots of smoke on a daily basis is so dangerous that almost nothing else could even remotely approach it as a bad habit.

  • Anthony Billingham

    What I take from that study. Or whatever you would like to call it.
    Out of the 88 e-cigarette users in the study, only 9 quit tobacco altogether. That’s only a small number. But they started with a small number of e-cigarette users anyway, and those 9 users, equate to 10% of the 88 users.
    So if all the 949 where e-cigarette users, 10% of them is 94.9 users, that would quit altogether. Not such a small number.
    I’m an ex-smoker of 37 years. And I was lucky, at the start of my journey. To have been introduced to 2nd gen. devices first, and quickly moved on to 3rd gen. After the initial first 5 weeks of dual use, I’m now 8 months tobacco free.

  • […] Title: Rogue research group opens the slurry gusher again (Clive Bates’ site) Rogue research group opens the slurry gusher again « The counterfactual […]

  • […] Title: Rogue research group opens the slurry gusher again (Clive Bates’ site) Rogue research group opens the slurry gusher again « The counterfactual […]

  • Alan Depauw

    A recent official survey in France found that “exclusive ecig users … represent 1.3% of those surveyed”. The survey covered 2052 people representative of the population of metropolitan France aged between 15 and 75, i.e. around 43 million. So at least 559000 people have totally given up tobacco for ecigs.

    Given that the country has about 16 million smokers, this represents around 3.5% of them. Adding ecig ‘hybrid’ users, it is clear why French media generally accepts that the fall in unit sales of tobacco of 7.6% over 2013 can mostly be imputed to ecigs.

    The survey also found that 18% of the population had tried an ecig at least once, equivalent to 7,740,000 people nationwide. Can anyone explain why it has attracted no international headlines compared to a US one which covered just 88 users?

    Ref.: http://www.ofdt.fr/BDD/publications/docs/eisxalu2.pdf

  • Guy Eaton

    This research is really poor.

    Just a note e-cigarettes are not actually one product. Some are really good in they they could get any hardened smoker to quite (e.g. taste nice, high level of nicotine, reliable – the types that the EU wants to ban), and are not (e.g disposables made by tobacco Companies). All you need to do in such research is pick the worst device or nicotine free cartridges and then the results would not be so good? Some liquids now contain no more chemicals than NRT and deliver nicotine more effectively or rapidly so why with the throat hit ‘placebo’ effect and the mirroring of actions of smoking should good devices be less effective it would not make any sense.

    N.B. by ‘good’ I just mean efficacy – all are much safer than tobacco….

  • Elaine Keller

    This might be a better illustration for the article. It shows a septic tank being cleaned by pumping out the sludge. http://inspectapedia.com/septic/SepticTankPumpout036DF.jpg

  • vapingpoint

    I point out again that lies and twististics have been used to promote hate against smokers and smoking in a huge social engineering operation by tobacco control in all it’s guises since it began. Quite a lot of “facts” are simply guesses to further an ideology. Until we recognise that the same modus operandi has been used in the past, then it’s not a shock to see the same behaviour repeated about e cigs.

    Also, the “studies/facts” I have read are using 1st generation devices – little lookalikees which is what they seem to think electronic cigarettes are! The ignorance is mind boggling. These “facts” need to be chucked out like the other “facts” – smokers lungs are black and there is “no safe level of smoking” and 50% of smokers get lung cancer – or even “smoking kills”.

    Smokers have watched the abuse against them with disbelief, it has been so dishonest. Why would it be any different for vapers?

  • vereybowring

    Wonder if your admirer will come back to entertain some more Clive ?
    I really got a good laugh out of the superior attitude the last time.

  • […] 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:  […]

  • prog

    ‘Sloppy’ research Clive….farmers don’t harvest slurry – the photo shows a green crop being harvested for ensilation.

    Nevertheless, TC is very good when it comes to muck spreading.

  • Dragonmum

    I see desperation written all over the garbage they’re trotting out – I suppose they have to earn their pay-checks any whichway they can – in their case house-breaking would be a more honest way!

  • Mark Nieuwenhuizen

    Although you are right about the study itself and more about the way these studies are used in the press but I also think there are reasons why these studies are right in some way. I am a happy vaper myself coming from more than 50 cigarettes a day for more then thirty years. But becoming such a happy vaper wasn’t so easy. I made a nice start with a look-a-like and went online to buy a small refillable. After a few weeks though it didn’t taste that good anymore, the tank system began leaking and the enthusiasm for something new came to deteriorate fast. Within a month or so I started smoking again and threw away the devices. Just as the research shows.

    I had the luck that one of my friends wanted to start vaping and asked for my advice. I told him not to start of with the same kit as I did and started to investigate online and found out that not only where there different types of clearomizers and batteries but also that there was a great vaping-community to ask questions. Bought my first Vivi Nova tank and that got me really into vaping. I see the same happening around me but now I can tell neighbors and coworkers that when the vape isn’t good enough anymore they should change coils, try another liquid or buy a decent vaping kit instead of the €10 starting set they bought somewhere on sale.

    Finding the right devices for your taste takes time and money and isn’t so easy as starting smoking again. Not everybody who got the same experience with lousy starter kits goes back online to investigate and there are not enough vapers yet to get advice from. Just like I myself didn’t go online or investigate when the nicotine patches didn’t work. I just threw them away and said that these things don’t work.

    • Clive Bates

      Mark – I really wish there was an open minded research effort aimed at understanding these pathways far better. Crude assignments of user status don’t really help: non-user, smoker, dual user etc. Also the tobacco control community assert that there is no material benefit to cutting down – but that obviously fails in the case of going from 40 a day to 2 a month – but for them ‘dual user’ is a failure – as bad as smoking. A much more nuanced language is needed to describe the actual behaviours, including experimentation and dual use, and the real world transition that people actually make.

      This sort of junk propaganda is utterly counterproductive and a cheap way of producing propaganda while failing to understand what really happens.

  • Dodderer

    Dr Siegel reveals the Big T plot:

    “When the tobacco industry decided – sometime back around 2000 or so – to stop monitoring tobacco control science and to just let us say anything we wanted to – I thought they had made a poor decision. But in retrospect, I think it may have been brilliant. They apparently knew that before long, without the restraints of having to answer to Big Tobacco’s public questioning, our science would deteriorate and we would just start saying anything we wanted to. Unrestrained, the tobacco control movement’s scientific rigor would fall to such a low level that we would end up discrediting ourselves and undermining our own credibility.”

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