Monday, January 17, 2011

Smoking statistics and 18 holes of golf

“Numbers don't lie.”

If I had a nickle for every time I heard (or read) that claim over my lifetime, I'd be able to play a damn sight more golf in my retirement than I currently do - in my dreams. Although the claim has a ring of truth, and many people will nod in agreement, it can easily be proven to be untrue.

But, since I don't really know how often I've heard someone make the claim that numbers don't lie, I'd have to calculate (or assume) the number of times I've heard the phrase. So, let's assume that I heard the “Numbers don't lie” claim once a day, on average, every day since I was five years old. Uh-huh. That's an unrealistic assumption, but it will serve to illustrate my point.

So, that's five cents a day for every day over the past 62 years. (365 X .05 X 62) or $1,130.50. That's not a lot of money.

Now, if I go out golfing on a sunny summer morning, I'd likely spend $40.00 (a conservative estimate) for green fees; another $20 to rent a golf cart, and yet another $15 for a few drinks or a bite to eat at the 19th hole.

We'll ignore minor costs, like the replacement cost for balls lost in various water hazards, or those lost in the deep woods on the occasional hook. And, then there's the balls lost when those perfect tee shots inexplicably disappear from the middle of the fairway. We'll also ignore the cost of a new three-iron every time I wrap the old one around a tree because I couldn't break 90; which is roughly 75% of the time. That is to say that I fail to break 90 some 75% of the time, not that I wrap my three-iron around a tree every time I fail to break 90.

At any rate, I expect to spend about $75 every time I go out to play. So, if I've saved roughly $1,130 in nickles and if I spend an average of $75 when I play; and, if I live to average life expectancy, then I might be able to afford an extra day of golf a year over the remainder of my lifetime. That's a lot of “ifs” and it doesn't add up to a lot more golf.

And, what if my basic assumptions were wrong? For example, what if I only heard that phrase every second day. Then my nickle a day savings would be reduced by half and I would only be able to afford an extra game every second year during my retirement. That's not even worth the effort of searching my pockets for a nickle every time someone claimed that numbers don't lie and stuffing it into a piggy-bank for 62 years.

And, what would happen if inflation drove the cost of a game of golf up to $90 a day. Obviously, I would be able to afford even less time on the golf course. That might do wonders for my blood pressure, but it would do little to improve my golf game.

In addition, there's always the possibility that some unexpected event might also affect my calculations. For example, if I had gone out to play a game of golf to celebrate my retirement and gotten run over by a bus load of Moose Lodge members arriving for their annual tournament. Then I would have derived absolutely no benefit from all those nickles I'd squirreled away every time someone claimed that “Numbers don't lie.”

I know what you're thinking. Just where in hell is he going with this little analogy?

The point is that if I take into consideration all the factors which might affect my calculations, the whole exercise can be seen for the absurdity it is.

And, the same holds true, I suspect, for the statistics bandied about by the anti-smoker zealots. Estimated numbers lacking adequate quantification. Deliberately ignoring confounding variables in their analysis and interpretation of data. Throw in a fistful of ifs, mights and maybes. And then pass the results off on an unsuspecting public as honest science. All of which is likely the reason we see such a lack of consistency in the results of the many secondhand smoke studies that have been conducted over the years.

Now it seems they don't even want to go through the motions of conducting (or exploiting) fraudulent scientific studies to mislead the masses. Instead, they want the politicians to ignore the science and pass legislation based on popularity polls conducted by anti-smoker fanatics.

From the Montreal Gazette: "A new study is urging lawmakers not to let science get in the way of sound policy when it comes to laws on children's exposure to second-hand smoke in cars. Smoking in cars carrying children should be banned whether or not science can prove exactly how risky it is, according to an article penned by Ray Pawson of the University of Leeds and published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal."

Science should not get in the way of sound policy? What the hell does that mean?

In pushing for a ban on smoking in cars carrying children in seven Canadian provinces, the anti-smoker fanatics emphasized, repeatedly, the claim that smoking in a car is 23 times more toxic than smoking at home; a statement that has been disproved.

Now, caught in a lie, the anti-smokers zealots want policymakers to ignore the science. Apparently, the science should only be considered if it favours the anti-smoker crusade.

Said Rob Cunningham, of the Canadian Cancer Society. "This issue has unstoppable momentum. These laws have enormous public support and they have been easily adopted with all party support in provincial legislatures."

Of course, most anti-smoking laws enjoy public support only because of the fear-mongering bullshit and bafflegab disseminated by the fanatics with the sole intention of misleading the public and influencing gullible politicians.

Shit. The temperature's below zero and there's about three inches of snow on the ground. I can't even work out my frustration on the golf course.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sounds like an addict typed this article.