In a tweet, Gerry Stimson wrote: “Another work of fiction from Stanton Glantz published in [Tobacco Control] by editor Ruth Malone. How does this fantasy stuff pass as science and get published?”
The short answer is that Malone frequently replies or retweets outbursts from those on the extreme edge of the ideological opposition to tobacco harm reduction. She frequently attempts to frame herself as the voice of logic and reason, but she shares their opinions and writes off evidence presented to her as coming from the tobacco industry.
The longer answer is provided by Stimson, Gardner, and Saligupta’s peer review – which Glantz awarded 1 out of 5 stars.
“The paper purports to show links between a group of consumer advocates, ENDS Cigarette Smoke Thailand (ECST), and Philip Morris Thailand Ltd (PMTL), who it is alleged worked together to oppose the ban on e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products in Thailand,” the trio write. “These claims are not supported by the accompanying data and analysis.”
Pulling no punches, they accuse Glantz of “fatal ethical, methodological and evidential flaws” and say this raises legitimate questions about the “scientific integrity…and editorial processes” at Tobacco Control.
Despite Tobacco Control saying it does not publish papers with “glaringly obvious, fatal methodological problems”, the response highlights that even Glantz said he was “unable to identify if there was a direct financial relationship between ECST and PMI”.
“If there was no evidence of financial or other links, then the paper is no more than a mishmash of assertions and there is no case for publication,” say Stimson, Gardner, and Saligupta.
Damningly, they add: “The paper amounts to the harassment of a volunteer body - ECST - by well-resourced academics and a well-resourced academic journal. Attacks on consumer and patient groups are unacceptable in any health field, but are especially repugnant in a setting where they may cause risk of reprisals by authoritarian-leaning governments.”
Their peer review goes on to detail the fatal methodological flaws, how rhetoric replaces research method, the creation of false parallels, the language of linkages, the derogatory attacks, the conflation of consumers with the tobacco industry, and the absence of evidence.
They conclude: “It would appear that the Editor of Tobacco Control is content to publish flawed papers. This review raises questions about internal scrutiny of submissions, and about the willingness of the journal to act promptly and comprehensively on complaints.
“There is a place for dispassionate and objective social and policy research on both tobacco control and tobacco harm reduction advocacy, but this paper does not evidence such scholarship. It does not reflect well on the academic standing of Tobacco Control. We still find it difficult to understand how such a fatally flawed paper can be published in an academic journal.”
- Successful countering of tobacco industry efforts to overturn Thailand's ENDS ban - https://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/early/2021/05/13/tobaccocontrol-2020-056058
- Peer review by Gerry Stimson, Charles Gardner, and Asa Saligupta - https://www.qeios.com/read/X6586U