Thursday, December 10, 2009

Welsh smoking ban leads to more heart attacks

Those anti-smoker brigands are a fine bunch, aren't they? One lies and the others swear to it.

Over the past year or so, there have been a number of “scientific studies” concluding that smoking bans reduce heart attacks. The main stream news media are quick to pounce on such studies, publishing the exaggerated claims as fact, without verifying the integrity of the information.

Of course, the same media is reluctant to publish any correction or retraction when the studies are found to lack scientific credibility. And, whether it's an inability to admit their own incompetence, or whether they merely wish to hide their complicity in the fraud being perpetrated by the anti-smoker zealots, the result is the same. A badly misinformed public.

Take, for example, a December 7, 2009 a article in the Daily Post in Wales. The article, written by Tom Bodden declared: “Smoking ban ‘sees fall in heart attacks’ in Wales”. The opening statement claimed that: “NEW figures this week are expected to reveal how the first full year of the public smoking ban in Wales heralded a steep decline in heart attacks. The findings will be contained in the Chief Medical Officer for Wales’ annual report showing hospital admissions have fallen since the ban came into force."

But, the only thing “new” about the claim was the spin.

In June, 2008 Mr. Bodden published an article in the Daily Post proclaiming: “Fewer heart attacks in wake of smoking ban”. The June article relied on cherry-picked data to claim an immediate positive impact of smoking bans on public health; a reduction in heart attacks. The subterfuge was clearly demonstrated by Dr. Michael Siegel of Boston University School of Public Health, in an August, 2008 blog entry.

In his latest article, Bodden sought to resurrect the questionable claims of his original story using the latest report from the Chief Medical Officer for Wales.

Author Christopher Snowdon (Velvet Glove, Iron Fist) picked up on the story and commented on his blog: “I will be intrigued if the Chief Medical Officer does make such a claim, because it is completely untrue. Not only is it untrue, it has become even less true - if such a thing is possible - since I last wrote about it.” (Snowdon analyzed the original data last year and found it lacking in credibility, as did Dr. Siegel.)

It's said that all propaganda contains an element of truth. And, the article by Bodden is no exception. Apparently, the data from Wales does reflect a decline in heart attacks in the year following implementation of their smoking ban. But, the devil is in the details.

And, Bodden, by omitting several pertinent details, turns his article into a propaganda piece; bullshit and bafflegab at its finest.

For example, he fails to mention that for two years prior to the ban, the rate of heart attacks had been declining at a similar pace as the year following the ban. This would indicate that the smoking ban had nothing to do with the decline in heart attacks. It was simply a result of a trend which had been ongoing.

And, Bodden also neglected to mention that, in the second year following the ban, heart attacks went up. So, the decline in heart attacks was not sustained and could not be attributed to the smoking ban any more than the subsequent increase in heart attacks could be attributed to the smoking ban.

Even the Chief Medical Officer contributed to the deception by ignoring the increase in the second year following the smoking ban. His report states that: “there is already some evidence that the ban is having a beneficial effect on health. Hospital admissions for heart attacks were reduced in 2008 and although this decline cannot be wholly attributed to the smoking ban, some studies suggest that at least some of the reduction is due to the legislation.”

No evidence is provided in the report to substantiate that claim.

But, the propaganda effort served its purpose. The public was left with the mistaken perception that smoking bans could reduce heart attacks and that the effect was both dramatic and immediate.

And, apparently, the politicians were also taken in. On Dec 7, Health Minister Edwina Hart announced new funding of more than £650,000 (over a million dollars) for smoking prevention.

Said Ms. Hart: "The Chief Medical Officer's annual report to be published later this week will show that hospital admissions for heart attacks were reduced last year. My announcement today builds on this good news and aims to prevent children from taking up smoking in the first place.”

ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) Wales also welcomed the good news. Said chief executive Tanya Buchanan: “Bans on smoking in enclosed public places have been demonstrated to effectively reduce heart attack rates so it is not surprising to see Wales following this positive trend.”

But then, ASH Wales stands to benefit handsomely from the new government funding. They'll get £143,000 a year over the next three years to enable the charity to continue raising awareness of the effects of tobacco and smoking and a further £30,000 a year to fund No Smoking Day activities and campaigns across Wales.

I guess none of them were aware that there was more recent data, publicly available, showing an increase in heart attack during the second year of the Welsh smoking ban. Or maybe they merely wanted to hide the increase in the same way climate scientists wanted to “hide the decline”.

You just can't trust anyone these days.

Additional reading:
Dr: Michael Siegels latest blog entry
The Chief Medical Officers of Wales report

1 comment:

Michael J. McFadden said...

So the Chief Medical Officer said " Hospital admissions for heart attacks were reduced in 2008 and although this decline cannot be wholly attributed to the smoking ban, some studies suggest that at least some of the reduction is due to the legislation.”

The CMO should be fired. By ignoring the fact that the general pre-ban decline accounted for the GREAT bulk of the observed post-ban decline he was basically lying. By ignoring the increase in the following year he compounded that lie.

He should be fired.

Michael J. McFadden
Author of "Dissecting Antismokers Brains"