On February 18th, the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA) issued an official retraction of the June 5th, 2019 study they published purporting to find that vaping doubles the risk of having a heart attack.
All we can say is, it's about time.
The study was conducted by Stanton Glantz, PhD, and colleague Dharma Bhatta. It claimed that e-cigarette use is "associated with increased risk of having had a myocardial infarction (aka a heart attack)" and that the "effect of e‐cigarettes are similar as conventional cigarette...use." The study gained massive media attention, with news outlets around the world warning people that vaping would double their risk of heart attack.
However, the study, based on a mere 38 subjects, had a major methodology problem. When other scientists dug into the findings, it turned out that, "the vast majority of vapers who reported having had a heart attack developed it on average 10 years BEFORE e-cigarette use initiation... So, e-cigarette use increases the risk of heart attacks that happened 10 years before using e-cigarettes!!!"
These were the incensed words of Dr. Constantinos Farsalinos, research fellow at the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center in Greece and the author of more than 70 studies and articles in international peer-reviewed scientific journals on the topics of smoking, tobacco harm reduction, and e-cigarettes.
Writing on his blog, Farsalinos called the study "epidemiological malpractice," that "violates basic principles of epidemiological research that even medical students known and understand," "horrendous work that challenges the integrity and ethics of medicine," and "a fatally flawed study that needs to be retracted immediately."
Professor Brad Rodu was the first to sound the alarm. He wrote the editors of JAHA a scathing letter clear back in July of 2019, calling the findings "false and invalid."
"Their analysis was an indefensible breach of any reasonable standard for research on association or causation," he wrote to JAHA, "We urge you to take appropriate action on this article, including retraction." It's nice to know that the editors at JAHA finally got around to following his advice.
This wasn't the first time Dr. Glantz has caught flak for what many feel is shoddy science designed to discredit vaping. Glantz, who calls himself "a for-real rocket scientist" because of his prior work for NASA, is a Distinguished Professor of Tobacco Control for the Truth Initiative, a non-profit whose stated mission is "a culture where all youth and young adults reject tobacco."
Glantz, who apparently fancies wearing a "Here Comes Trouble" T-shirt on occasion, has used his research to make such far reaching anti-vaping claims that even the American Cancer Society (ACS) distanced itself from his findings.
"The data in this study do not allow many of the broad conclusions that it draws," Dr. Thomas Glynn of ACS rather bluntly told the New York Times, speaking of a paper Glantz co-authored that claimed "adolescents who used the devices were more likely to smoke cigarettes and less likely to quit smoking."
As if Glantz were not already enough of an unlikable character, he's been sued not once but twice for sexual harassment. The University of Southern California shelled out $150,000 in 2018 to settle a lawsuit brought by a female researcher that worked under Glantz's supervision. Among the charges was a claim that Glantz removed the female researcher's name from a paper and inserted his own, a clear case of academic fraud.
Unfortunately, this is unlikely to be the last time we'll hear from Dr. Glantz who seems undeterred by the negative publicity. When asked by Stanford Magazine if he was a loose cannon, Glantz replied, "Yeah, I like it that way."