Most scientists stick to numbers. Glantz blends science with public policy; his foes derisively call him a "political scientist." He is a prolific contributor to the nation's most prestigious medical journals, and his academic writings range from a landmark paper on the links between secondhand smoke and heart disease to a study showing that smoking bans in restaurants do not affect business.
Recently, he has been analyzing the political clout of the tobacco lobby--an effort that earned him the dubious distinction last year of being the only researcher whose grant some members of Congress sought to revoke.
"He's not a scientist," says Stephen Handman, president of the American Smokers' Alliance, which led the effort to strip Glantz of his funding. "He's a con man."
Con man or scientist, to tobacco manufacturers Glantz is Public Enemy No. 1. He earned his stripes 15 years ago when, in a curious harbinger of things to come, a plain brown envelope arrived at the office of Californians for Nonsmokers' Rights, a Berkeley activist group that Glantz helped found.
The envelope contained a bootleg videotape of "Death in the West," a 1976 film that contrasted advertising images of Marlboro cowboys with those of real cowboys dying of cancer. The film, produced in Britain, had aired only once before Philip Morris, Marlboro's manufacturer, sued the producers. They agreed never to show it again and to give all copies but one to the company.
When Glantz got the pirated copy, he shopped it around to TV stations across the country, finally persuading a San Francisco NBC affiliate to air it. An instant hit, it has since been shown worldwide.
"I unsuppressed it!" Glantz says gleefully. He adds, with characteristic immodesty: "I have a reputation for having guts."
If "Mr. Butts" intended to create trouble for the tobacco industry, he picked the right guy for the job.
And what a job it was. The documents arrived a mess. "It was just a bunch of papers thrown into a box," Glantz says. First he made copies and stashed the originals in a place "for safekeeping"--he won't say where. Then he coded them in a sort of a Glantz version of the Dewey Decimal System.
It was like piecing together a massive jigsaw puzzle, a task made all the more difficult when word of the cache leaked out. Soon journalists, academics and lawyers suing the tobacco industry began turning up at Glantz's doorstep. Annoyed by the interruptions, he put the documents in the UCSF library, which, at Glantz's urging, had just established a tobacco archive to chronicle the nonsmoking movement.
That is where his troubles began.
On Feb. 3, 1995, a two-page typed letter was hand-delivered to Karen Butter, the UCSF librarian. The author was Barbara A. Caulfield, an attorney with the San Francisco firm of Latham & Watkins, which represented Brown & Williamson.
It had come to the company's attention, the letter said, "that the archive library possesses confidential and privileged documents which belong to Brown & Williamson." The company wanted the papers back.
Butter says of Caulfield's request: "I wasn't very happy about it." She grew even unhappier as mysterious men bearing cellular phones camped out in the sunny reading area just outside the tobacco archive, keeping watch on who walked in and out. Butter assumed the men to be private detectives and she had the university lawyers ask Latham & Watkins about them.
Caulfield, who no longer represents Brown & Williamson, did not return repeated phone calls seeking comment.
However, the company's vice president for public affairs, Joe Helowicz, said the observers were not detectives but people assigned "to keep watch on our papers because our view was the documents were stolen and we didn't want them disappearing from the library the same way they disappeared from our building."
Brown & Williamson ultimately sued the university, seeking not only the return of the papers but also library records of the names of anyone who had viewed them. Butter was incensed. Glantz bordered on panicky as he met with university officials to find out if they would back him.
"I thought they were going to say, 'It's really nice, Stan, that you have this little crusade, but we hope you have a good lawyer.' "
Instead, the university took on the case--and won, even as Brown & Williamson appealed all the way to the California Supreme Court. Today, the secret papers are posted on the Internet, and the library is selling "the Brown & Williamson Collection" on CD-ROM.
"Whenever people talk about how invincible the cigarette companies are," Glantz says, "I say, 'Hell, no, the university beat 'em.' "
Glantz's real battle, however, was yet to come.