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Professor Stanton Glantz of UC San Francisco finds himself on the wrong side of the news again this spring as another group is now pushing to retract a 2018 study from the peer-reviewed “Pediatrics” medical journal.

The study in question pulls from the now-debunked “Gateway Theory.” Cigarette smoking rates historically show an inverse relationship as safer nicotine alternatives become more prevalent. Nevertheless, Glantz and his co-authors set out to test that theory once again to demonstrate that teens who use nicotine vapor devices are more likely to smoke real, combustible cigarettes.

The UCSF professor and his team looked at youth smoking numbers over the course of two years or what they refer to as “waves”. They concluded that teens who had tried vapor technology in Year 1 were twice as likely to smoke 100 or more combustible cigarettes during Year 2. 

Brad Rodu, the Professor of Medicine and Endowed Chair of Tobacco Harm Reduction Research at the University of Louisville decided to dive into the surprising research and noticed something potentially very wrong with how it was structured.

While all of the teens surveyed for the study smoked combustible cigarettes in some capacity, the teens of who had smoked fewer than 100 cigarettes in Year 1 could have had anywhere from just a single puff to 99 cigarettes. That results in a lot of variance that was unaccounted for in the initial study and a big red flag to any researcher.

After figuring this out, Rodu and a colleague at Louisville reproduced the study, taking that variable into account, and determined that nicotine vapor use could not be “independently associated” with more smoking, unlike the what Glatz and his team concluded. 

Now there is a growing number of experts on Dr. Rodu’s side, including Dr. Raymond Niaura, chair of the Department of Epidemiology at New York University, his colleague David Abrams, a professor of social and behavioral sciences, and Clive Bates, a former public health official in the United Kingdom. They and others have joined Dr. Rodu in pushing for this study to be retracted. 

This is important to note because Glantz’s studies have long been a tool used by many anti-harm-reduction activists and have even been influential in the creation of counterproductive policies around the world.

We will continue to track this story and keep you updated.

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