Stanton Glantz, the longtime anti-tobacco (and anti-vaping) activist, has retired from the University of California-San Francisco. The resignation came without warning and is effective immediately.
“I have finally retired from UCSF, ready to move to the next phase,” Glantz wrote in a message to colleagues. “I will also be continuing to work with my UCSF colleagues to complete work that is under way. From talking to colleagues who have already retired, I am confident that there will be more ways that I can keep contributing to fighting the tobacco industry and promoting public health.”
Glantz retired as the principal investigator at UCSF’s Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, where he had stepped down as director in January. In 2018, the Center had received a five-year, $20 million FDA-NIH grant to study vaping products, which followed another $20 million grant in 2013.
His FDA grant recently supported a Stanford study that claimed vaping is a “significant underlying risk factor” for COVID-19. The study, whose senior author is an anti-vaping activist, has been criticized by many academics for its faulty methodology and suspect statistical manipulations, but has been widely covered in the news media, and has been used as justification by legislators for urging a ban on all vaping product sales during the pandemic. Glantz praised the study.
“The FDA needs to pay attention to these findings as it considers the premarket approval applications for e-cigarettes that are pouring into its office now,” he wrote in his blog. “These results specifically challenge FDA’s assumption that e-cigarettes are safer than cigarettes.”
Earlier this year, the Journal of the American Heart Association retracted a 2019 Glantz study that purported to show that vaping led to heart attacks. However, University of Louisville Prof. Brad Rodu showed that Glantz had included subjects whose heart attacks preceded their use of e-cigarettes.
Glantz, whose exact birthdate is not known, is either 73 or 74-years-old, and had been at UCSF for 45 years. He earned a Ph.D in applied mechanics from Stanford. Despite his lack of medical training, Glantz joined UCSF as a professor of cardiology, applying his research on the mathematical modeling of heart tissue.
However, Glantz’ fame and notoriety came from his involvement in the anti-smoking movement, which extended far beyond careful academic study. He fought for public smoking bans and non-smokers’ rights, first in local communities in California and later nationally and worldwide, as he became one of the most influential leaders of the tobacco control movement. His opposition to all things tobacco extended beyond smoking and to the tobacco companies themselves, which he hated with a crusader’s passion.
Glantz’ hatred of the tobacco industry led him to produce research on secondhand smoke that was later shown to be overstated and probably deceptive. But smoking bans were passed across the country based on Glantz’ and others’ assertions that secondhand smoke kills.
That same fervor extended later in his career to vaping. Much of his research was apparently designed solely to support press releases and interviews, and was easily debunked. But even though his work was broadly criticized by other scientists and harm reduction advocates, its influence on public opinion and legislation seemed more important to him than maintaining his reputation as a careful scientist.
Glantz has been accused twice of sexual harassment in recent years. The first case, which also included charges of academic misconduct, was settled out of court for $150,000.