Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Smoke-Free St. Louis City touts junk heart attack study.

Smoke-Free St. Louis City is touting an Indiana heart attack study that has been debunked by Dr. Michael Siegel as junk science.

Here is what Dr. Siegel has to say about the study:

"To be blunt, this study is crappy and its conclusions are completely invalid. This study would never have passed scrutiny with me had I been asked to review it."

Dr. Siegel continues:

"In fact, the results of the study fail to support the paper's conclusion.

While the press release sounds quite impressive, if you take the time to read the actual study, you'll find that the sweeping conclusion that a smoking ban reduced heart attacks among nonsmokers by 70% is based on a total of only 22 heart attacks. That's right. There were only 22 heart attacks among nonsmoking patients in Monroe County in this study between August 2001 and May 2005. And there were only 15 heart attacks among smoking patients in Monroe county during the study period.

The sample size of the study is so small that it is ridiculous to conclude that the observed decline from 17 heart attacks (2001-2003) to 5 heart attacks (2003-2005) was attributable to the smoking ban. With sample sizes this small, the variation in the number of annual heart attacks is expected to be enormous. There is no way that the study can determine that the observed decline was due to the smoking ban, rather than simply to random variation in the number of heart attacks in this small
geographic area (only one hospital was included in the study)."

Such tiny studies only serve deceive the public and lawmakers. The Illinois Licensed Beverage Association has an accurate take on what these studies are worth:

"The integrity of the studies cited by these groups is questionable. For example, anti-smoking advocacy groups boast of recent statistics from Pueblo, Colorado citing a dramatic decrease in heart attacks since the inception of their ban. These groups consistently point to the reduction in heart attacks in Pueblo, Colorado and Helena, Montana as incontrovertible proof that secondhand smoke is doubling the heart attack rate among non-smokers.

These two studies comprise a population base of roughly 200,000 people. However, when you look at the 70 million people that comprise the non-smoking states of California, New York, Florida and Oregon-the heart attack rate has either not decreased at all or decreased such a small amount as to be statistically insignificant.

Researchers can deliberately sift through enough small local jurisdictions with smoking bans to find a few aberrations in heart attack rates and then claim that elimination of exposure to secondhand smoke will dramatically reduce incidents of heart attacks. Please don't be taken in by misleading claims based on very select data samples."

Local secondhand smoke researcher David Kuneman and associate researcher Michael McFadden did the huge study the the ILBA relies on. McFadden comments on their huge heart attack study:

"Using a database of fully verifiable public data and covering a subject base literally 1,000 times as large as that covered by a previous and heavily publicized study in Helena, Montana (2), the new study showed clearly that claims -- ostensibly bolstered by that Helena study -- of drastic and instant reductions in heart attacks upon the implementation of smoking bans simply do not occur in larger populations."

It is clear a smoking ban would not cause the heart attack rate in St. Louis to plummet.