Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Smoke-Free St. Louis City pushes biased Italian heart attack study.

A March 3 post on the Smoke-Free St. Louis website touts a very dubious Italian heart attack study in support of a St. Louis smoking ban.

But antismoking expert Dr. Michael Siegel says of this study:

"Results of this and related studies (with similar methodology) are being used by anti-smoking advocates in testimony before policy makers that smoking bans have an immediate effect on heart attack rates.

There's just one problem with all of this: the conclusions of this study are not supported by the data. The data clearly show that the decline in heart attack rates among adults in these two age groups began prior to the implementation of the smoking ban. Thus, it is evident that the decline is not attributable to the smoking ban.

What is so alarming about the conclusion of this Italian smoking ban study is not so much that the authors have drawn a conclusion that follows from the data but have failed to consider alternative explanations for the cause of the decline in heart attack rates. What is so alarming is that they have drawn a conclusion that is completely unsupported by the data itself."

Dr. Siegel endorses a previous study by St. Louis ETS researcher David Kuneman and colleague Michael McFadden that looked at the effect of smoking bans on the heart attack rates of entire states. Kuneman and McFadden found that smoking bans had no effect on heart attack rates. Dr. Siegel says of the Kuneman/McFadden heart attack study:

"While this study certainly does not prove that smoking bans have no effect on heart attack admissions, what it does is demonstrate that when one examines population-based data for an entire state, one does not find any evidence of a dramatic decline in heart attacks immediately following the implementation of smoking bans. This casts serious doubt on the conclusion of the Helena, Pueblo, Piedmont, and Bowling Green studies. If smoking bans truly cause an immediate and dramatic decline in heart attacks, on the order of a 25% to 50% reduction, then why do we not observe any evident decline in heart attacks when entire states implement smoking bans."