Wednesday, December 05, 2007

I Take a Lickin' and Keep on Tickin'

As the dreaded IU smoking ban draws closer, the IDS devotes more and more column space to it - always with a not-so-subtle "pro" bias. And I get increasingly irritated. I even recently went against all that is right and decent and penned a letter to the editor complaining about another letter to the editor from some damnfool organization on campus promoting the ban. Reason being, the idiot actually tried to pass it off as "not paternalistic" on the basis that it is trying to safeguard the rights of others not to inhale smoke. Which was just too much, really, because the ban in question is actually a tobacco ban. That's right, in the interest of "protecting others from second-hand smoke," IU is banning ... chewing tobacco.

Of course they haven't, and won't, publish my letter. But at least the "pro" crowd is starting to let its true colors show. Today's "pro" editorial (unfortunately not linkable as it was only in the print version) was by Jonathan P. Rossing, whose "work" really ought to be studied in graduate school Communications and Media programs as a sterling example of the kind of lefty moonbattiness one finds in print these days. Other of Rossing's gems include this must-read bit about how white people are genetically predisposed to racism. You see what I mean.

And his piece on the smoking ban does not disappoint. All that follows are actual quotes.

All the extreme individualists who claim that people should be able to do what they desire to their lungs must recognize that, in this case,the good of our community necessarily trumps self-centered needs and desires.

So it is "extreme individualism" to think that you can do what you like with your own lungs. Who knew?

And let's assume that even a handful of the people smoke less frequently stop smoking altogether. The overall health of IU students, staff and faculty will improve. The ban will lower the risk of respiratory illnesses and infections, hypertension, heart disease and lung cancer. Improved health potentially translates into fewer sick days for staff, improved concentration for study time and better focus on research and teaching. In short, we strengthen not only the health of the IU family, but also the health of the University as a top-notch educational and research institution. Thinking long term, healthier, productive, longer-living faculty and alumni translates into more financial support for our community through research grants and alumni donations.

Just like that! A "handful" of people stop smoking, and suddenly IU is awash in research grant cash!

The sad thing is, it ain't just him. Not by a long shot. One of IU's distinguished medical faculty has published a study that "shows" that passing a smoking ban in restaurants and bars in Monroe County has been so stunningly effective that heart attacks in non-smokers have dropped by 70 percent in the 22 months after the ban. 70 PERCENT!!!

I mean, how can anyone argue with those numbers?

Aw, shucks, I'll give it a try. Their conclusion relies on hospital admissions data for AMI (heart attack) patients in the 22 months leading up to and following the ban in Monroe County (the location of the ban) as compared with Delaware County (which had no ban but a "similar demographic profile").

The results showed a significant drop in the number of admissions among non smokers in Monroe County after the ban was brought in, but this was not reflected in the figures for Delaware County. The number of heart attacks among non smokers in Monroe County dropped from 17 in the 22 months leading up to the ban to 5 in the 22 months afterwards; a drop of 70 per cent. In Delaware County there was an 11 per cent drop, from 18 to 16, in the same two periods.

Gee, ya think? With numbers that small, it's really not surprising. If the frequency of AMI patients is so low that there's less than one per month on average in the regions in question, is it really so shocking that a 44 month period would've turned up these kinds of results?

Sorry kids, I don't buy it. Show me this pattern over a decade and across hundreds of counties randomly selected across the country and we'll talk. But if you're going to conclude, on the basis of about 50 people over a 44 month period with NO KNOWLEDGE OF THEIR MEDICAL HISTORIES and NO BASELINE STATISIC ON THE FREQUENCY OF AMI IN NONSMOKERS and NO CONTROL GROUP OF NON-AMI SUFFERERS FOR COMPARISON, then I really don't know what to say to you except "try that high school thing again - I think you missed some important points in science class."

Now, the website I got that from also thinks Bloomington is the capitol of Indiana, so they're obviously not too good at fact-checking. Which just makes it twice as embarassing that they do a better job putting the survey in perspective than IU's own newssite does.

Check this out:

The study compared the two counties in addition to analyzing the 35,482 hospital admissions in Monroe county 22 months before and 22 months after the initial smoking ban was adopted.

In other words, they cherry-picked their data. It's sitting right there in print, and none of the stellar editors at IU's newssite are smart enough to have picked up on it. They looked at 35,482 admissions records and only reported on about 50 of them, and NO ONE HAS A PROBLEM WITH THAT?

It gets even worse:

"What concerns us is the fact that about half of all non-smoking Americans are regularly exposed to second-hand smoke, even though more than 500 municipalities nationwide have adopted some form of a smoking ban in public places," said Seo, whose research interests include smoking and obesity prevention.

Now you'd really think that with 500 municipalities known to him that have banned smoking, Dr. Seo's survey could've been a little more ... oh, what's the word? ... comprehensive? I mean, if he knows of 500 places across the country that have banned smoking, why focus on only Monroe County? I'd call him lazy - except there's the matter of those approx. 36000 admissions records he looked at.

Right there on the page, folks! The title might as well be "Cherry-Picked Data Conclusively Shows Drastic Effects of Second-Hand Smoke."

I'm so sick of it. Noah used to worry that Creation "Science" was quietly undermining the scientific establishment here. I would submit that public health axe-grinders have already done much more damage to honest scientific inquiry than the Bible-thumpers could ever hope to do. This stuff is despicable.

But one good thing came out of it. I remembered how much fun smoking is and bought a pack of Marlboro Reds on my walk home today. It's been months since I smoked, so I got to enjoy the full buzz. Thanks, guys!

Of course, I should be more careful. Dr. Seo warns me that

Exposure to second-hand smoke for just 30 minutes can rapidly increase a person's risk for heart attack, even if they have no risk factors.

Scary, eh? It's an amazing feat of human endurance, but I survived not one but two (imagine, TWO!!!) full-on cigarettes - we're talkin' the REAL DEAL® here - and I'm still ticking. I chalk it up to my viking physique.


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