Thursday, September 24, 2009

Letter to Ron Wilson of the WSJ concerning Glantz and Lightwood

Mr. Wilson,
St. Louis City is currently considering a smoking ban. I have widely distributed the attached study to St. Louis lawmakers and the St. Louis press. The error of the research by Lightwood and Glantz is explained by the authors of this study in the following two paragraphs and is clear to everyone here. Therefore a reduction of the heart attack rate in St. Louis City has not been put forward as a serious argument for a smoking ban. I wish you would provide your readers across the country with the same full information St. Louis has been lucky enough to have.

"We find no evidence that legislated U.S. smoking bans were associated with short‐term reductions in hospital admissions for acute myocardial infarction or other diseases in the elderly, children or working‐age adults. We find some evidence that smoking bans are associated with a reduced all‐cause mortality rate among the elderly (‐1.4%) but only at the 10% significance level.

We also show that there is wide year‐to‐year variation in myocardial infarction death and admission rates even in large regions such as counties and hospital catchment areas. Comparisons of small samples (which represent subsamples of our data and are similar to the samples used in the previous published literature) might have led to atypical findings. It is also possible that comparisons showing increases in cardiovascular events after a smoking ban were not submitted for publication because the results were considered implausible. Hence, the true distribution from single regions would include both increases and decreases in events and a mean close to zero, while the published record would show only decreases in events. Thus, publication bias could plausibly explain why dramatic short‐term public health improvements were seen in prior studies of smoking bans."