Blowing Smoke

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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 This assertion, popularized by anti-smoking activist Stanton Glantz, is based on an unpublished study involving tiny, highly volatile numbers.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.

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  1. Dag nabit, Kevin – I was going to compare this to the 10% gay myth.

    I think it’s really just a strategy decision by some political activist groups to invent the best possible evidence that supports their position while still being somewhat believable at first glance. Just repeat often enough and it becomes assumed to be true, without anyone ever even thinking about it.

  2. They’ve had a nice drop in tax revenues from bars and restaurants in Tempe and Mesa, Arizona since the voters inflicted the smoking ban about a year ago. That’s probably about the biggest effect it’ll have anywhere.

  3. According to the study mentioned here:

    http://www.thepublican.com/cgi-bin/item.cgi?id=11342&d=32&h=24&f=23&dateformat=%25o%20%25B%20%25Y

    there has been a drop off in NYC due to the smoking ban, but it’s not heartattacks they are talking about.

  4. That’s a shame. I’ve got a bunch of organic gardening and alternative medicine books from Rodale Press, and have been fairly regular subscriber to Prevention.

    I always thought of their stuff as D.I.Y. resources for taking control of your own life and giving the boot to “professional” busybodies. And I certainly thought of the old man, Robert Rodale, as an advocate for freedom and empowerment. I’m sorry to learn that they have a bent for elitist social engineering.

    That heart attack statistic sounds a little like the Super Bowl epidemic of violence against women, or the claim that ten percent of the population is gay. Sigh.

  5. Kevin,

    Haven’t you seen the pattern yet?

    First they tell you what you OUGHT to do that’s good for you.

    Then they tell you what you SHOULD do that’s good for you.

    Then they tell you what you WILL do that’s good for you.

    Then they just dump the bullshit and DO to you what’s good for you.

  6. A NTYTimes op-ed by humorist Rosmary Ellis alledges that ?eight hours of working in a smoky bar is equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.?

    A typical 100 seat restaurant encloses a volume of 500 cubic yards and is by law ventilated with 4,000 cubic yards of fresh air in 8 hours time,. The lung volume of 25 smokers is roughly forty thousand times smaller, so about 50 thousand cigarettes would have to be smoked to keep the space as smoke filled as the smokers lungs. The only point of tangency of this urban myth with with a happy outcome is that some antitobacco activists present might die of laughter at the sight of 25 smokers perishing of hyperventilation as they tried to chain smoke four cigarettes a minute.

    Which do you find more plausible- that 40 smokers in a 100 seat restaurant could consume 48,000 cigarettes in 8 hours to assure that the waiters got the second hand equivalent of a pack a day, or that Helena Montana might experience fewer heart attacks during the snow shoveling , New year’s eve and Apres ski season than in the midsummer months chosen , by no means at random, as the starting point of this innumerate factoid ?

  7. Hmmmmm interesting !!!

  8. Hmmmmm interesting !!!

  9. Hmmmmm interesting !!!

  10. Hmmmmm interesting !!!

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