Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Efficacy of the Smoking Ban

On the face of it, this can only be good news:
Earlier this month it was announced that heart attack rates fell by about 10% in England in the year after the ban on smoking in public places was introduced in July 2007 - which is more than originally anticipated.

But the latest work, based on the results of numerous different studies collectively involving millions of people, indicated that smoking bans have reduced heart attack rates by as much as 26% per year.
Now, whilst I am no fan of the smoking ban (despite not being a smoker myself) I will concede that a drop in the rate of heart attacks can only be a good thing. A 26% drop seems to be a pretty big achievement.

That said, there is something about this study that I do have to question. It is based on a big assumption: namely, that there is a direct correlation between the end of smoking in pubs and the decline in heart attacks. And whilst there is probably some sort of a link between the two, I'm not sure whether it is as comprehensive or conclusive as indicated in this article.

Let me explain. A decline in heart attacks could be the result of other factors. Like healthier lifestyles in other areas, such as the loss of weight and more exercise. It could also be an indicator that preventive medicine is working as well, and people are being caught before they have their first heart attack. It could simply be medical professionals now know when to intervene, and are helping to get that heart attack rate down. And finally, yes, it could be down to people giving up smoking. But it doesn't follow that the giving up of smoking has to be down to the smoking ban.

The assertion that this drop in heart attacks is down the smoking ban doesn't stand up, and also paints a very positive yet unrealistic picture of that ban. It also fails to show the economic consequences of the smoking ban, or what it has meant for the freedom for businesses to choose what they want to happen in their own premises. As a result, this "good news" story actually comes across as part of the wider government campaign to paint smoking as a taboo and a dreadful sin that can only be expurgated with government intervention.

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At 3:00 pm , Blogger Mark Wadsworth said...

Oh come off it. ASH admitted that the ten per cent figure was a lie (which anybody with a grasp of figures spotted straight away) and so this 26% figure is a lie 2.6 times over.

At 3:54 pm , Blogger The Nameless Libertarian said...

Really? That makes this an even better example of government propaganda then. Or just plain old lying.

At 10:09 pm , Blogger Admin said...

The research carried out did not really take in to account other contributing factors.

If someone who smokes goes for a meal at a restaurant they want a cigarette. If they go to a bar, they want to smoke while they drink.

The smoking ban indirectly cut down the number of people drinking in bars and dining out.

Heart attack rates should not therefore be 100% linked to 'smoking' and the smoking ban. Other changes in lifestyle like diet change and the reduction of drinking and fine dining can contribute to results.

However, there is no doubt the smoking ban cut down the number of smokers and provided a positive result to many people.


At 10:55 pm , Blogger The Nameless Libertarian said...

Of course, because the people who didn't go out to the pub/a restaurant stayed at home eating salads, drinking water and sucking on some sort of crappy cigarette substitute. In no way did they sit at home smoking, drinking and eating.

The smoking ban may have had a positive result on some people; those people, however, have been made even more bovine and unable to make a positive choice for themselves without government intervention. And don't forget there is negative side to the smoking ban as well; just ask those landlords who lost their livelihood because people stayed at home after the ban.

At 7:59 pm , Blogger ecrunner said...

As good of news as it is, why are people paying more attention to the laws of smoking/heart attack correlation? It will just lead to nowhere, as the more limitations on smokers, the more they won't quit on their own (if were they to refer to any of the many health resources available on the matter.


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