Blowing Smoke


An op-ed piece in yesterday's New York Times by Rosemary Ellis, editorial director of Prevention magazine, endorses the laughable claim that a smoking ban in Helena, Montana, led to a 58 percent drop in heart attacks within six months. This assertion, popularized by anti-smoking activist Stanton Glantz, is based on an unpublished study involving tiny, highly volatile numbers. It cannot possibly be true, even if Helena's ordinance caused every smoker in town to quit. But that does not stop Ellis from citing Helena's experience as a reason why New York City should keep its smoking ban (never mind that the city's ban has been rendered redundant by a subsequent state ban).

But speaking of New York, why have we not heard about a dramatic drop in heart attacks there since the city's smoking ban took effect in April? Or, for that matter, in any other jurisdiction aside from Helena that has imposed strict limits on smoking? A drop anything like the one Ellis attributes to Helena's smoking ban should be hard to miss in a city the size of New York.