The Rogue’s gallery

My good friend VapeMeStoopid runs a list of the morons who have attacked, misrepresented or harmed vaping, which she calls Asshats ANTZ and trolls Oh My!.  Now VMS is a wonderful person and we all love her dearly, but basically she’s a tattooed redneck who eats roadkill and drinks moonshine in church. I on the other hand am a sophisticated, urbane British writer who never ever ever uses bad language. So welcome to my completely different and not at all nasty list of the morons who have attacked, misrepresented or harmed vaping, which won’t use words like “asshats”. Much.

Anyway, here goes. Let’s start with the three arsemen of the crapocalypse.

 

Stan McChapman

We’re not meant to say “Siamese twins” any more, apparently; I was never very good at that political correctness stuff but I’m sure I heard that somewhere. They’re “conjoined twins” now. Never mind; that’s a digression. What we’re looking at here is three men, born separately but now fused by long exposure to concentrated stupidity into a strange composite organism called Stan McChapman.  Scientific examination suggests that instead of sharing organs and a blood supply like conjoined twins they’re simply wedged so far up each other’s rectums that even surgery can’t disconnect them now, but let’s see if the scalpel of common sense can separate the sub-personalities that make up this intellectually crippled monster.

Professor Stanton A. Glantz

Stan Glantz, professor of cardiology at UCSF, really is a professor. Unfortunately he’s not really a professor of cardiology. In fact all his degrees are in aeronautical engineering and applied mechanics. If those subjects don’t sound very medical it’s because they’re not. Lack of medical knowledge doesn’t bother Stan, though, because his entire career has been built around bothering smokers. He’s done quite well out of it too. Almost all the funding he’s ever received has come from anti-tobacco organisations. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with that as such, because while I firmly support people’s right to smoke it’s undeniable that it’s not very good for you. What’s more problematic is Glantz’s seeming addiction to this source of funding. Now, with e-cigarettes ripping increasingly large chunks out of tobacco sales (and those Master Settlement Agreement payments that fund his comfortable lifestyle), he’s suddenly decided that vaping is just as bad as smoking and needs to be controlled.

Now anyone can be wrong, and that’s fine; just as long as we all keep learning and updating our opinions as new evidence appears. Glantz isn’t doing that though. In fact he’s rejecting most of the evidence that exists about e-cigs and misrepresenting the rest to support his own, rather wild, claims. Glantz claims that e-cigs release “ultrafine particles” that cause heart attacks; he ignores the fact that the studies he quotes are about solid particles of combustion products found in cigarette smoke and diesel exhaust, not the liquid droplets in e-cig vapour. He insists that electronic cigarettes act as a gateway into smoking, based on a study that shows they’re mostly used by smokers. Nicotine gum is also mostly used by smokers, but I don’t see Stan making any gateway claims for that.

Professor Martin McKee

Clearly marketed at children...

Clearly marketed at children…

Martin “Bubblegum” McKee (also known as “Bobblegom” by those who’re not above making fun of his Ian Paisley-esque accent) is a professor of epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He actually is a professor of epidemiology. He also has no conflicts of interest, because he doesn’t get any funding from nicotine patch manufacturers like Glaxo SmithKline. We know this because McKee keeps saying so, and of course we believe him.

 

“Thank you for your request of 10 November 2013 regarding funding from GSK.

In the financial year 2012-2013, GSK was invoiced for £244,803. In addition, GSK paid the School £10,180 for fees which had been invoiced to students.

Therefore, we invoiced or received from GSK the total of £254,983 in 2012-2013.”

Whatever.

Anyway, McKee is the British media’s go-to rentaquote specialist whenever e-cigs need to be publicly demonised. He has a particular fetish for bobblegom-flavoured liquid, apparently because the taste of bobblegom is something that only children enjoy.

Possibly McKee should start carrying bobblegom around with him; he could hand it out to remove the bad taste he leaves in everyone’s mouth, such as when he announced to a stunned audience that e-cigarettes aren’t safe because “That’s what they said about Thalidomide.”

Professor Simon Chapman

As we all know Australia’s upside down, but the people have adapted to that gravitational peculiarity and most of them are friendly, cheerful and great fun to be around. Unfortunately sociologist Simon Chapman is a rare exception, and being upside down has caused the contents of his lower intestine to dribble into his brain. The result is that he talks a lot of – there is no polite way to say this – shit. Like Glantz he’s spent most of his career campaigning against smoking, which is understandable, but also like Glantz he’s morphed into a dishonest opponent of vaping.

Chapman is a predictable advocate of all the usual myths, such as that e-cigarettes will act as a gateway to smoking, that they’ll “renormalize” smoking and that they’re all a cunning plot by the tobacco companies. Like many anti-tobacco crusaders he seems to have forgotten that the aim of tobacco control is to save lives, not to destroy the tobacco industry. Sadly he now seems to think vapers are just acceptable collateral damage in his joyless Jihad against the cigarette companies. Chapman does occasionally try to make positive noises, but the temptation to scaremonger always proves too much and he slides back into the same old nonsense.

Most ANTZ (Anti Nicotine and Tobacco Zealots) are intolerant of criticism, but Chapman has elevated silencing dissent to an art form. On 11 January 2015 he fired off an epic whine about how he has to deal with “trolling” vapers on Twitter, neatly glossing over the fact that of the 227 vapers he claims to have blocked most had never even tweeted him; he seems to have searched for anyone who so much as mentioned e-cigarettes and pre-emptively added them to his blacklist. He also has rather loose criteria for what counts as “trolling”. Going by the number of medical professionals on the list it seems to mean anyone who dares disagree with him.

If you happen to live near a wind farm and find the noise annoying, Chapman will be happy to tell you that it’s all in your imagination.

Clifford Douglas

Clifford E. Douglas is the director of the University of Michigan Tobacco Research Network. His qualifications for this are a BA in English and a law degree, plus an entire career as an adviser to various politicians. In other words he’s just a typical professional advocate in a tax-funded non-job. One of the gulls that follow the rusty trawler of politics, squawking loudly and fighting over a share of the scraps in its wake.

What makes Douglas stand out, though, is a degree of dishonesty that’s breathtaking even by ANTZ standards. I blogged about him a while back, when he tweeted a story about exploding e-cigs a whole day after it turned out to be a home-made pistol instead. Now he’s at it again, claiming that e-cig related poisonings “jumped 156%”. I’m getting really sick of people saying stuff like this. What the figures actually say are that e-cig related calls to poison control centres jumped by 156%. Now, clearly that’s not the same thing at all. If someone calls up and says “My kid touched an e-cig; is he going to die?” that gets counted as an e-cig related call. It isn’t a poisoning, though. It’s just a call, and Douglas knows that. It’s not as if lawyers have a great reputation for telling the truth anyway, but Douglas is sickeningly blatant about it.

Dr Matthew B Stanbrook

Stanbrook is the science editor of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, which probably explains why its science standards have recently expanded to include tripe like “Pet animals in airplane cabins: An unnecessary allergy hazard.” Of course pets are something that people enjoy having around, and Stanbrook seems to have an issue with the concept of enjoyment. Among the many gloats on his professional profile is a boast about using CMAJ to advocate about “adverse health consequences of e-cigarettes and energy drinks”. There’s a word for advocacy about health risks which haven’t actually been shown to exist; it starts with L and rhymes with trying.

Online Stanbrook is notorious for smug tweets about the latest piece of research that fits his agenda, most recently the NEJM’s junk science letter about formaldehyde. He’s also quick on the trigger when it comes to accusing critics of being industry shills, conveniently neglecting the fact that his own lengthy conflict of interest statement makes it very clear that some of his work is sponsored by pharma companies. And they don’t have a problem with vaping at all, do they?

Most vapers on Twitter were blocked by Stanbrook a few months ago when the hardcore tobacco control nuts implemented their blacklist, but recently he’s started unblocking many of us – even me. I suspect this is not unrelated to the recent announcement that $2.7 million in funding has been allocated to a group of nosey parkers who plan to analyse social media discussions about vaping.

Jacqueline Lee

Jacqueline Lee is a writer at the University of California, Riverside’s student magazine. She is also a fucking moron.