Archive for Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Hard evidence

Some Kansas University researchers have handed the governor some hard facts to support a statewide smoking ban.

September 29, 2009


A new Kansas University study on public smoking bans provides just the kind of evidence Gov. Mark Parkinson needs to help promote a statewide smoking ban.

The governor has said the ban will be a top priority for his office during the next legislative session. A KU study scheduled for publication today is almost certain to be part of that discussion.

The research conducted at KU Medical Center indicates that smoking bans reduce the number of heart attacks by as much as 26 percent. That means a nationwide ban could prevent up to 154,000 heart attacks a year, according to the study’s lead investigator, David Meyers, KU professor of cardiology and preventive medicine.

Heart attacks were used as the measurement in the study because they develop relatively quickly as a result of smoke exposure. The KU study involved 24 million people over about three years. Such an extensive study eliminates the argument that such statistics are the result of “bad science,” said Meyers.

A number of Kansas cities, including Lawrence already ban smoking in indoor public places such as restaurants, but the provisions of those bans vary from place to place. A statewide ban would have the advantage of standardizing those provisions across the state, protecting nonsmokers from secondhand smoke and perhaps encouraging some smokers to kick the habit.

A smoking ban is almost certain to draw some opposition, but objections seem to be weakening. Thirty-two states have enacted statewide smoking bans. A 2007 survey found that 71 percent of Kansans favored such a ban, and the municipal bans that have been enacted are being well accepted.

The KU researchers have their sights set on a nationwide ban, but a statewide ban in their home state would be a good first step. A statewide ban needs to minimize exceptions that would water down its health benefits. The Lawrence law wouldn’t be a bad example to follow.

Legislators will once again face a tight budget situation when they convene in January. It’s a tough year to ask for more money, but it might be a good year for a proposal like a smoking ban that will save both state health care dollars and state lives.


cthulhu_4_president 8 years, 8 months ago

A nationwide ban on birth would eventually decrease the number of deaths in the long term also.

Birth- the real killer.

sinedie 8 years, 8 months ago

The health benefits of an indoor smoking ban are indisputable.

Still, I think we should consider the notion of telling business owners that they can't let their customers use a legal product on their premises. It seems to me that it's a question of choice on the part of the customer.

The intent is good, but there are more issues than the article touches on.

notajayhawk 8 years, 8 months ago

The terminology used in this editorial is exactly the reason research like this is dangerous.

Sorry, award-winning LJW editors: The study produced not a single iota of 'hard evidence.' And the research doesn't 'indicate' a damned thing. Press people should be forced to take coursework in general statistics and principles of research before they're allowed to use either in a story or an editorial.

Research such as this can not 'indicate' a reduction in heart attacks, dear editors. The first cardinal rule of understanding reserach is that correlation can not prove causation. It can support the supposition, but never prove it.

Anyone remember the whole "55 saves lives" propaganda-fest? After the 55 mph speed limit became law in 1974, highway fatalities dropped by about 15%, and proponents quickly jumped on that finding as 'evidence' that lower speed limits reduce fatalities. (The same numbers are being dragged out of mothballs by some morons trying to bring that speed limit back.) Yet the link between speed limits and fatalities is not so clear, if it exists at all. A few years later there was an almost-as-dramatic drop, of almost 13%, when average speeds had actually gone up. And there were other factors that better accounted for the drop in fatalities - mandatory seatbelt/ignition interlocks, for example, which became law in the same year as the 55 mph limit.

Those with a poor understanding of the limitations of research findings often make mistakes such as these. For years everyone assumed that the 'crack baby' syndrome was a result of the drug itself. Then it turns out that there were other factors - mothers who used crack during their pregnancies also had a tendency to drink and smoke, to not take their vitamins, eat a healthy diet, or keep their doctors' appointments, and to have generally poorer health. (Pharmaceutical cocaine is only a category C pregnancy risk, the same as many very common mild antidepressants.)

And how about all the research that said children of divorce were poorly adjusted? As it turned out later, the biggest predictor of how well-adjusted children were after a divorce was how well-adjusted they were before the divorce. Children whose parents split amicably are better adjusted than those with parents who stayed together in constant antagonism.

There are numerous factors that affect heart attack risk. Diet, exercise, and other lifestyle choices have an undeniable effect - yet NOW the entire reduction in heart attacks is due to smoking bans. People choosing a healthier lifestyle are the same people who choose to allow smoking bans - beyond that, it's a chicken-or-egg question. This research is fatally flawed, as is the credibility of those who would tout it to promote an agenda and set public policy by its dubious findings.

pizzapete 8 years, 8 months ago

notajayhawk, go find something productive to do, you have too much time on your hands. Yea and research is dangerous.

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