If you’ve spent any time at all looking into ecigarette science and health research, then you’ve almost certainly come across Tobacco Control. If you haven’t, it’s perhaps one of the most viciously anti-tobacco and ant-vaping publishers out there.
They recently came under fire for a hilariously pretentious and infuriatingly elitist editorial in which they suggested that no one should talk about their research anywhere online unless it’s approved and filtered through their website. No one, of course, is taking them seriously, especially since it’s one of the least qualified publishers on earth to facilitate fair, honest, and unbiased discussion.
If you’re not convinced, consider that Tobacco Control is the journal responsible for publishing the hugely irresponsible, extremely misleading study that stirred up false fears about formaldehyde in ecigarette vapor. The study “subjected the e-cigarette liquid to an unrealistically high temperature… so acrid that no one would actually vape it,” and was almost universally condemned.
Despite numerous calls to do so, Tobacco Control refuses to retract or correct the study. Even worse, they actually rely on James Pankow, the author of this seriously flawed study, as a key peer reviewer for other papers the journal publishes.
Clearly, Tobacco Control‘s scientific insight and research review process is questionable at best.
Tobacco Control Journal: Outspoken Against Vaping
Many tobacco scientists have a healthy desire to reduce tobacco use in society and research methods for reducing disease and death associated with smoking. However, Tobacco Control takes their hate for anything remotely tobacco-related to such an extreme that they oppose any science except that which supports the extremely narrow policies they advocate.
All of the studies, reviews, and editorials in the Tobacco Control journal convey a strong anti-tobacco rhetoric and anti-vaping prejudice. They routinely oppose any kind of tobacco harm reduction strategies and dismiss any data that suggests anything besides an “abstinence-only” approach to tobacco, nicotine, and ecigarettes.
While other reputable medical journals, like University College London, are exploring new avenues of tobacco harm reduction (including the potential of ecigarettes) Tobacco Control is stuck in a bubble of anti-vaping dogma.
Tobacco Control is so committed to the delusional idea of a one-hundred percent “tobacco-free society,” and so prejudiced toward anything that even remotely resembles or reminds them of cigarettes, that they refuse to even acknowledge the enormous difference between vaping and smoking. Many studies in Tobacco Control stretch and reach to express an anti-vaping viewpoint even when there is literally no science or data to support their interpretation.
But here’s where it gets weird. In their conclusion, they make the baffling claim that “allowing ecigarette use in smoke-free places undermines the normalization of cigarette smoking, particularly with respect to the milestone ban on in-flight smoking that flight attendant unions and smoke-free advocates fought incredibly hard to pass.”
This kind of shockingly biased and unscientific narrative is woven throughout the majority of research papers published in Tobacco Control. That’s why critics are so bewildered by their recent announcement in which they shamelessly bashed any forum besides their own as “illegitimate.”
Tobacco Control Thinks No One Should Discuss Their Research, Except With Their Approval
According to the provocative editorial published last month, Tobacco Control‘s editors they think they are the only qualified scholars to mediate discussion about their research. The uncanny article entitled “Blog fog? Using rapid response to advance science and promote debate” in reality does the opposite; it’s a thinly-veiled attempt to stifle debate and discussion, not promote it.
Here’s what they have to say: “Recent comments posted on some personal blogs impugn the obectivity of Tobacco Control and its reviewers, questioning our motives and the veracity of peer review…. the proper place to pose questions and debate conclusions from research published in Tobacco Control is directly to the authors in the form of a Rapid Response [Rapid Response is Tobacco Control’s very own online discussion platform, hosted on their website].”
Clive Bates and others keyed in to the vaping research field suspect that Tobacco Control is feeling sore about a slew of criticism it got for a recent study they published. It erroneously claimed that vaping is a gateway to smoking, based on only four nonsmoking high school vapers in their sample that went on to try a cigarette.
Despite having incredibly weak data, the authors conclude the study with the grandiose claim: “These results contribute to the growing body of evidence supporting vaping as a one-way bridge to cigarette smoking among youth.” Understandably, many critics condemned this conclusion and rightfully accused Tobacco Control of unfettered bias.
In response to legitimate criticism, Tobacco Control is basically saying that it doesn’t like other people talking bad about them behind their backs, and they’d prefer to be able to screen all comments and criticism first. In fact, they have officially changed their policy on responding to questions and criticism, and now refuse to respond to any inquiries or discussion on their social media pages, blogs, or elsewhere online.
It would almost be laughable if it weren’t for the fact that transparency and open discussion are serious issues in academic research.
Open Discussion Fosters Good Science
What’s concerning about the editorial is that Tobacco Control‘s editors are behaving more like activists than researchers. It is important to foster open discussion about all kinds of methods for reducing the death and disease associated with smoking, but Tobacco Control is saying that their narrow view of tobacco control is the only legitimate one.
By calling out bloggers and the many scientists, patients, and others who find it important to discuss and critique their papers illegitimate, they’re attempting to silence and delegitimize alternate points of view. They feel threatened by critics and they would rather put themselves in a position to censor and control the discussion instead of joining in on an open, honest conversation.
Transparency in science and publishing is important, and Tobacco Control is a perfect illustration of why. Without honesty, objectivity, and open public discussion, toxic political dogma will weave it’s way into science.
Biased researchers twist and stretch the unrelated, weak data to fit their ideology. This causes them to ignore and dismiss important details, like the tiny four-person sample that formed the evidence for the Tobacco Control study that claimed vaping is an indisputable gateway to smoking.
We Need Ecigarette Science, Not Ideology
Good scientific journals should never have an obvious political or ideological bias. After all, academic publishing is about evidence first and foremost, and ideology impairs researchers’ ability to accurately interpret the data.
That’s why it’s always important to check the sources of any new scientific research, especially health research on a controversial topic like vaping. The evidence should always speak for itself, and conclusions should follow from the data, not the other way around.
There are many anti-tobacco and anti-vaping activists in the ranks of health research who are just like the editors and reviewers of Tobacco Control. Beware of scientists who are committed to an ideology more than the science and refuse to consider new technologies and emerging harm reduction strategies.
That’s why it is so important to encourage open discussion on blogs and social media; it holds academic journals accountable and keeps biased activists and elitists from controlling the conversation. It’s important for people to debate and evaluate ecigarette science in an open marketplace of ideas.
This is something that the vaping community excels at, and that strength is one of the best tools we have to defeat overly restrictive and counterproductive policies like like flavor bans and the FDA’s strict ecigarette deeming regulations.
We need to defy the editors of Tobacco Control and keep blogging, keep talking, and keep sharing the message that restricting access to ecigarettes is bad for public health. We have to separate the good science from the bad science to secure a happier, healthier world where everyone is free to vape on.