Monday, 26 October 2009

A little light reading

Some good articles around the web today. Patrick Basham and John Luik have a fine overview of the anti-smoking crusade at Spiked, in which they explain that science has never really been the issue.

Thanks to some unusual candour on the part of the anti-tobacco brigade in New York City, we now have official confirmation that banning smoking in public has absolutely nothing to do with protecting the health of non-smokers from second-hand smoke, but everything to do with stigmatising both smoking and smokers.

This is a reference to last month's proposed ban on smoking in parks, something that was demanded on the hideously Orwellian grounds that...

"We don’t think children should have to watch someone smoking."

Basham and Luik see such puritanical authoritarianism as an inevitable and intended consequence of 30 years of militant activism.

What the evolution of the debate over public smoking shows is how little science has to do with the anti-tobacco crusade, how disingenuous that crusade is about its real motives and goals, how easily the crusade on tobacco can be extended to other causes (most notably the war on obesity), and how fundamentally dangerous it is to a society both free and democratic.

I can only concur (I made similar points to the NY newspaper Westside Spirit last month).

You may have read this weekend about a World Health Organisation study that has found an association between mobile phones and brain cancer. I haven't had time to look into these claims in any depth but Dave Hitt has and it seems to be another case of 'if you torture the data it will confess to anything'.

As Dave says at the Quick Hitts blog, it has all the hall-marks of junk science - it's unpublished, it's a meta-analysis, it cherry picks the data and, finally, comes up with a barely significant risk ratio of 1.18 (and 18% increase in risk). 

They start with 465 articles and cherry pick 23 studies, but were still unable to extract any scary numbers. Their odds ratio was .98. (1.0 signifies no effect.) But then they cherry picked it even more, down to 13 studies, and were able to concoct an 18% risk.

This sounds remarkably similar to the Environmental Protection Agency's notorious meta-analysis of secondhand smoke studies (which I discussed in The Untouchables). Please do read the rest of Dave's article, and if you haven't subscribed to his excellent podcast yet, you really should.

Last but not least, Dr Michael Siegel discusses the Australian heart attack data that I recently dug up over at the Rest of the Story blog.

These results are in accordance with the observations of several tobacco researchers in Australia who have previously told me that they failed to see any significant effect of smoking bans there on heart attack trends...

It pains me to see the scientific integrity of the tobacco control movement imploding like this.

1 comment:

Jorge Armenteros said...

Along the lines of NYC simply trying to denormalize smokers, they are now banning all flavored tobaccos, including pipe and hookah. Their rationale is that these products are 'attractive to children' but of course it is ILLEGAL to sell these products to children; what else can they ban that is attractive to children? sex, daquiries, etc...