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Siegel: Glantz told SF lawmakers told (wrongly) that vaping causes heart attacks

Earlier this summer, San Francisco lawmakers in coordination with city attorney Dennis Herrera implemented new regulatory actions which ban the sales of vapor products across the region.  According to the new ordinance, the San Francisco Department of Public Health has the legal authority to impose a maximum $1000 penalty on any business or consumer found to be in violation of the new law. 

The Bay Area vaping community was understandably and immediately outraged, and the rest of the nation’s vapers began worrying if these sorts of local vape prohibitions might soon become the norm rather than the exception.  The question on many legal analysts’ minds was:  Why would a city government ban the sales of vaporizers and electronic cigarettes yet leave Big Tobacco products completely untouched?

 ‘Vaping causes heart attacks’ publication hits the Internet

Just last month, a controversial research publication posted in the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA) made a rather startling claim that "e-cigarette use is an independent risk factor for having had a myocardial infarction."  One of the paper’s co-authors is none other than the notorious Stanton Glantz – a man known for promoting obviously misleading research about vaping on many past occasions.

The American vapor industry has witnessed many of these types of bogus “studies” being published over the years, and nearly every one of them has been immediately debunked by multiple public health experts.   However, an anti-vaping study that is actually co-authored by Glantz himself always sets off alarm bells within the pro-vaping scientific community.

Related Article: Vaping is good for the heart, but a single cigarette has adverse effects

When the JAHA study was first posted, tobacco control experts like Dr. Brad Rodu of the University of Louisville and Dr. Michael Siegel of the Boston University School of Public Health quickly took notice.  Hadn’t this controversy about vaping and heart attacks already been settled years ago? 

In fact, Dr. Konstantinos E. Farsalinos of the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center conducted a similar study on the subject as far back as 2014 when the worldwide vaping phenomenon was still in its infancy stages.   The research entitled Acute effects of using an electronic nicotine-delivery device (electronic cigarette) on myocardial function: comparison with the effects of regular cigarettes is still readily available via the medical journal medical journal BMC Cardiovascular Disorders.

The predominant finding of the study indicates that switching to vaping from smoking has immediate and measurable positive consequences on the myocardial system.   Conversely, the smoking of even a single cigarette produces instantaneous adverse effects.   

Dr. Brad Rodu writes scathing article in USA Today

In a July 17 article posted in USA Today, Dr. Brad Rodu thoroughly debunks the Glantz vaping study, line by line.   The study’s co-authors, Glantz and Dharma Bhatta, claim to have used data originating from the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) study in 2015 to prove their assertions that vaping increases the risk of myocardial infarction.

The basis of the co-authors’ allegations stem from 38 participants involved with the PATH research who self-identified as regular vapers and who had also reported experiencing cardiac episodes in the past.  Based on this “evidence” alone, Glantz and Bhatta came to their conclusions that vaping causes heart attacks. 

Related Article: Brad Rodu completely annihilates ‘vaping causes heart attacks’ study

Yet, as Rodu points out in his USA Today rant, Glantz and Bhatta failed to mention that the majority of those 38 cardiovascular incidents took place as much as ten years prior to the patients ever picking up their very first vape pen. 

“However, when Rodu obtained the federal data, he found the majority of the 38 patients in the study who had heart attacks had them before they started vaping — by an average of 10 years earlier. In his letter to the editors, Rodu called Glantz's findings ‘false and invalid.’

‘Their analysis was an indefensible breach of any reasonable standard for research on association or causation,’ wrote Rodu and Nantaporn Plurphanswat, a research economist at University of Louisville's James Graham Brown Cancer Center. ‘We urge you to take appropriate action on this article, including retraction.’”

Rodu is not the only scientist calling for an immediate retraction of the erroneous Glantz publication.   In a July 20  article posted on E-cigarette Research, Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos of the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center in Kallithea, Greece, makes the following statement.

“No, this should not be considered a joke. It is a serious problem, a fatally flawed study that needs to be retracted immediately if the findings reported in the USA TODAY article are true. There are no ifs or buts, and there is no need for further comments or arguments. I need to emphasize: if the results reported in the USA TODAY article are true, the scientific community needs to protect itself from such a horrendous work that challenges the integrity and ethics of medicine.”

While calls-to-action for an immediate redaction of research deemed to be “fatally flawed” and “an indefensible breach of any reasonable standard for research” is entirely appropriate, the long-term damage to the vaping community may already be irreparable, according to Dr. Michael Siegel.

Siegel on the San Francisco vape ban

In an article posted on July 21 in Tobacco Analysis, Dr. Siegel - a Professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the Boston University School of Public Health – suggests that the Glantz study may have already set into motion a series of legislative events that might easily lead to the demise of vaping in America.

While Siegel - like Farsalinos and Rodu – is no fan of the Glantz research, he also makes a rather starting statement in his article which implies that Glantz’s bogus research may have played a significant role in the passage of the San Francisco vape ban earlier in the year.  In a discussion of the “vaping causes heart attacks” study, Siegel makes the following declaration.

“There are two major problems here.

The first is that the unsupported, and now debunked, conclusions of the study have influenced many policy makers in their decision to ban the sale of e-cigarettes (while leaving real cigarettes on the shelves, which do cause heart attacks). For example, before voting to ban the sale of e-cigarettes in San Francisco, city council members were told that e-cigarettes are associated with heart attacks.”

If Siegel’s statement is true, then it would appear as if Stanton Glantz – who is a professor at the University of California in San Francisco - may have shared his now-debunked vaping study with city attorney Dennis Herrera and members of the city council.  These are the very same people responsible for implementing the San Francisco vape ban while simultaneously ignoring the well-documented cancer risks and high mortality rates associated with combustible tobacco.   

Related Article:  Public health expert says ‘bogus’ outrage over vaping is ‘literally killing people’

In his July 21 article, Siegel further suggests that the vaping community should avoid feeling as if these unwitting lawmakers were essentially duped by the diabolical Glantz.  No, the second problem with this citywide prohibition on e-cigs is that these city council members failed to investigate Glantz’s findings themselves. 

“The second problem is the question of why the study investigators failed to look at whether the vaping preceded the heart attacks, even though they had the information in the survey to make that determination. It would have been easy for them to determine that the majority of the vapers who reported having had a heart attack actually experienced the heart attack before they even started vaping.”

Unfortunately, while the city of San Francisco is the very first municipality in the nation to implement such strict vaping prohibitions on its community, several other localities across the United States are also considering whether to following its lead.  New York and Carmel (California), for example, are also currently evaluating similar legislative proposals at the local level that will essentially ban the sales of vapor products either through conventional brick and mortars or e-commerce websites.  

Related Article:  Siegel blasts San Francisco’s proposed vape ban as ‘insane’

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