Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Smoking ban study never happened

As we recently reported, a study of the effect of smoking bans on heart disease was uncritically passed on by enthusiastic media-types, including one of my local papers, the Lexington Herald-Leader, despite the fact that is was typical junk science. Well, now the story gets even more interesting.

Turns out, not only was the study badly done, but it wasn't even a study. So points out Michael Siegel at The Rest of the Story, a watchdog group on tobacco policy:
As it turns out, it appears that there was no study. These were simply preliminary data on hospital admissions in one community. There is a study ongoing in which acute myocardial infarction (heart attack) rates will be compared between communities with and without smoking bans, but those data have not yet been collected.
What was reported turns out to be "preliminary results from a larger study," a study which has not even been conducted yet:
Well, if the study has not yet been conducted, then how can the "authors" issue a press release with the study's conclusion?

If ever there was an example of researchers coming to a pre-determined conclusion about their research hypothesis, this is it.

Anti-smoking researchers are apparently so eager to communicate favorable findings to the public that they can't even wait to conduct their studies any more. In this case, data from the intervention group was obtained and immediately released, before the data from the control communities could be examined for comparison purposes.

As Grier correctly points out, the 27% decline in heart attacks in Starkville doesn't mean anything in the absence of knowledge of what happened in communities without smoking bans. If there were also large declines in heart attacks in those localities, then the observed decline in Starkville was not attributable to the smoking ban.
When it comes to furthering political agendas--on this and other issues, like Global Warming--not even scientific integrity stands in the way. So far no word from the usual crowd who are always ready and willing to talk about junk science as long as it doesn't gore their own politically correct ox.

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