Saturday, March 4, 2017

The "terrible science" behind smoking bans

We Used Terrible Science to Justify Smoking Bans - Jacob Grier, Slate:

February 13, 2017 - "In the early 2000's, as jurisdictions across the country fought over expanding smoking bans to bars and restaurants, anti-smoking advocates seized on ... research showing that secondhand smoke exposure can affect coronary functions to promote fear of secondhand smoke..... A decade later ... better studies with much larger sample sizes have found little to no correlation between smoking bans and short-term incidence of heart attacks....

"England, which implemented a smoking ban nationwide, presented the first opportunity to study the matter on a national scale. Researchers there credited the ban with a heart attack reduction of just over 2 percent nationwide.

"A 2008 study covering the entire country of New Zealand — a population smaller than England’s, but bigger than the American towns previously studied — found no significant effects on heart attacks or unstable angina in the year following implementation of a smoking ban; hospitalizations for the former had actually increased....

"A clever study led by researchers at RAND Corp. in 2010 tested the possibility that the large reductions identified in small communities were due to chance.... The conclusion of the study was blunt: 'We find no evidence that legislated U.S. smoking bans were associated with short-term reductions in hospital admissions for acute myocardial infarction or other diseases in the elderly, children or working age adults'

"A 2012 study of six American states that had instituted smoking bans came to a similar conclusion. So did a 2014 study, which is notable for being co-authored by some of the same researchers who had previously published papers suggesting that the Colorado towns of Pueblo and Greeley had experienced reduced rates of heart attacks after implementing smoking bans. When Colorado enacted a statewide ban, the authors had an opportunity to see if their earlier results could be duplicated across the larger population of nearly 5 million people. No effect appeared. As an additional test, they re-examined the data excluding 11 jurisdictions that had already implemented comprehensive smoking bans: The statewide ban still showed no effect....

"Rates of heart attack are not the only possible negative of secondhand smoke exposure.... There are also potential impacts on respiratory health, and of course lung cancer....

"'No clear link between passive smoking and lung cancer,' read a 2013 headline in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, hardly a pro-tobacco publication. That was a report on a cohort study tracking 76,000 women that failed to detect a link between the disease and secondhand smoke. The finding comports with existing literature suggesting that the effect is borderline and concentrated on long-term, high levels of exposure....

"There were good reasons from the beginning to doubt that smoking bans could really deliver the promised results, but anti-smoking advocacy groups eagerly embraced alarmism to shape public perception. Today’s tobacco control movement is guided by ideology as much as it is by science, prone to hyping politically convenient studies regardless of their merit and ostracizing detractors.

"This has important implications for journalism. As health journalists take on topics such as outdoor smoking bans, discrimination against smokers in employment or adoption, and the ever-evolving regulation of e-cigarettes, they should consider that however well-intentioned the aims of the tobacco control movement are, its willingness to sacrifice the means of good science to the end of restricting behavior calls for skeptical scrutiny."

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  1. I suspect that the tobacco control movement is guided entirely by ideology, and "science" has no more to do with it than it has with the Global Warming (oops, pardon me "Climate Change") hoax. I invite everyone to look up L. Neil Smith's brilliant libertarian policy primer Down With Power and refer them particularly to p. 221 in the chapter entitled Cigareets and Whiskey: "I do know that Prohibitionists are liars when it comes to things like "secondhand smoke," because I watched the lie being carefully constructed, right before my eyes. During the first Bush regime, the [EPA] was ordered to "study" the presumed health hazards of secondhand smoke. When that agency reported (uncharacteristically for an outfit like the EPA, which is why I believe them) that there exist no such hazards, an infuriated Bush Administration ordered them to go back and find some. Failing, they presented their results in the form of a bar graph - only they pulled an old Madison Avenue mind-trick - displaying only the tops of the bars, to exaggerate differences where, in fact there were almost none."

    These lying sacks of shit do not deserve to be presumed "well-intentioned". They are simply another group of sociopaths who regard themselves as so superior to - so much smarter than - everybody else that they have acquired a (non-existent) right to run the lives of other people, dictating - at gunpoint - every detail of how they may behave and what uses they may make of their own bodies. They deserve no courtesy or respect from anyone concerned with individual natural rights or any sort of civilized society.

    1. Thank you for the comment, Rob. The link within the article actually refers to a Fraser Institute book about how how that EPA report was struck down by a federal court for being not based on science (and therefore in violation of the EPA's mandate). But I didn't read (or don't remember) anything in that book about the EPA being ordered to reach that conclusion by their political overlords. So the link to Smith's book is especially helpful, as another piece of the puzzle.