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27 June 2000

Common Cause Honors Tobacco Foe

UCSF professor Stanton Glantz is a winner of the 2000 Common Cause Public Service Achievement Award for his "tireless and tenacious" efforts to regulate tobacco.

The annual award recognizes individuals "who by force of imagination, initiative and perseverance have made outstanding contributions to the public interest in the areas of government performance and integrity."

Common Cause, a nonprofit, nonpartisan citizen's lobbying organization promoting open, honest and accountable government, praised Glantz, "whose tireless work to expose the power and influence of big tobacco on our health and on our political system, has fundamentally informed the debate over the biggest public health issue of our time."

Glantz and four other advocates received the award last Friday (June 23) at a ceremony in Washington, DC. "Actually after all the awards I've received, this was one of the most fun. I met a really cool group of people, including the 90-year-old woman who walked across America for campaign finance reform," said Glantz yesterday.

Glantz himself first began working on campaign finance reform, volunteering for Common Cause as a graduate student at Stanford University in the early 1970s. He was working for the passage of the Fair Political Practices Act and was asked to use statistics to analyze the data. For Glantz, who now teaches an introductory course in statistics at UCSF, that work became the basis for his interest in analyzing how tobacco industry campaign contributions influence politicians today. "Not only does academics effect politics, but it works the other way around, too."

On the day Glantz accepted his award, UC attorney Christopher Patti was in a state court of appeals defending his right to conduct research. This case, appealed by Californians for Scientific Integrity, a group associated with the tobacco industry-funded National Smokers Alliance, claims that Glantz had used public funds to conduct politically motivated research -- specifically, research on smoke-free restaurant laws. A decision is forthcoming.

Tobacco industry-funded groups have engaged in extensive public relations campaigns to discredit Glantz and his research. So far, Patti has been undefeated representing Glantz and the University's academic freedom.

A scientist in the Cardiovascular Research Institute and a member of the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, Glantz has had several highlights as he reflects on his 25-year career at UCSF.

Together with colleague William Parmley, they first reported that levels of secondhand smoke are enough to significantly damage the cardiovascular system. "We built the case that second-hand smoke kills over ten times the people who die of lung cancer," Glantz said.

A major turning point in his fight for public health came in 1994, when he received confidential internal Brown & Willamson Tobacco Corporation documents that contained scientific information regarding the damaging health effects of cigarette smoking and the industry's early knowledge of the addictive nature of nicotine, despite its denials. Brown & Willamson, the third largest tobacco company, unsuccessfully sued the University to prevent publication of the documents. The Tobacco Control Archives, an online resource of the UCSF Library/Center for Knowledge Management, now includes 100,000 pages, including the publication of the case that rid America of "Joe Camel."

Now Glantz and a team at the UCSF library are working to make an additional 40 million pages of previously secret tobacco industry documents accessible on the Web. Glantz came to UCSF in 1975 after earning a master's of science and PhD from Stanford University. The former Eagle Scout has received dozens of awards, including the Gleitsman Foundation's 1998 Citizen Activist Award, an honor he accepted at the White House, and the 1997 Chancellor's Award for Public Service.

Glantz and colleagues' have authored two books, "The Cigarette Papers," which depicts the discrepancy between the industry's public position on the health effects of smoking and the results of its own research, and "Tobacco War," which details the efforts of public health advocates to institute tobacco controls in California.

Other winners of Common Cause's 2000 public service achievement award this year are John Bonifaz, director of the National Voting Rights Institute, JoAnne Chasnow, executive director of Human SERVE Campaign, Doris Haddock, an activist, Campaign Finance Reform, and Frank Wilkinson, executive director, First Amendment Foundation.

Common Cause
UC Press - Tobacco War
UCSF Library - Tobacco Control Archives

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