Monday, August 22, 2005

100,000 Deaths Per Year Due to Smoking in Movies? The Dangers of Casual Epidemiology

In a column Friday in Reason Online, Jacob Sullum questions the plausibility of the claim that smoking in movies causes approximately 200,000 kids to start smoking each year and will be responsible for 100,000 deaths among these kids per year, and that 50,000 of these deaths could be prevented simply by giving any movie that portrays smoking an R rating. That claim was made by Dr. Stanton Glantz in testimony before Congress in 2004 and can be found on the Smoke Free Movies web site.

There are two major bases for Sullum's questioning of this widely used statistic among anti-smoking advocates.

First, he suggests that there are other factors related to exposure to smoking in movies that could also be related to smoking risk: "The problem with attributing this association to the modeling effect of cinematic smoking is that it's impossible to control for all the differences in personality and environment that make kids more likely to see movies with a lot of smoking in them, which already tend to be R-rated movies."

Second, he suggests that the magnitude of the alleged effect is simply not plausible. If cinematic smoking does cause 52% of all smoking and advertising causes another 34%, than movies and advertising cause 86% of all smoking, leaving only 14% to be explained by other causes: "Methodological difficulties aside, the size of this alleged effect is implausibly large, to put it mildly. Glantz says cinematic smoking accounts for even more real-life smoking than advertising does: 52 percent vs. 34 percent. Is it even conceivable that exposure to movies and advertising causes 86 percent of smoking? That all other factors in life together contribute only 14 percent?"

The Rest of the Story

If I'm reading the statistic correctly, it means that 1 in every 2 kids who start smoking in the U.S. do so because of exposure to smoking in movies and 1 in every 3 kids who start smoking do so because of exposure to traditional advertising. This means that 5 of every 6 kids who smoke do so because of advertising and exposure to smoking in movies, leaving all other causes of smoking to contribute to only 1 of 6 cases of smoking initiation.

And it implies that if no kids ever went out to the movies, the number of smokers would be reduced in half. And if all cigarette advertising were eliminated as well, the overall smoking initiation rate would be cut by 5/6.

It also implies that if all other causes of smoking were eliminated, including parental smoking, parental approval of smoking, smoking in the household, exposure to smoking on television, and exposure to smoking in restaurants, then the number of new smokers would only be cut by 1/6.

It doesn't take a rocket epidemiologist to realize that this is simply implausible. And as a researcher who has for years studied numerous causes of smoking initiation, I don't for a minute believe that all causes of smoking other than advertising and movies explain only one-sixth of all smoking initiation.

Sullum is, I think, insightful in calling out the two major reasons why the statistic is flawed. First, and most importantly, it is simply implausible. Beyond any scientific or methodologic concerns, the implausibility of the statistic is the most important reason why I reject it.

Second, there is a serious methodologic concern, which is the likelihood that smoking in movies is related to a constellation of factors that affect smoking risk. It is extremely unlikely that smoking in movies is single-handedly responsible for 1/2 of all kids who start smoking. Instead, it is more likely the case that exposure to smoking in movies is indicative of a constellation or pattern of social, environmental, and behavioral factors that are directly related to smoking uptake.

Although the study from which the statistic was derived controlled for a number of other factors related to smoking risk -- "grade in school, sex, school, friend smoking, sibling smoking, parent smoking, receptivity to tobacco promotions, school performance, sensation-seeking propensity, rebelliousness, self esteem, parent's education, authoritative parenting, and perception of parental disapproval of smoking" -- there are still likely to be factors that are directly related to exposure to smoking in movies that were not measured (and perhaps, cannot be measured).

In other words, I'm not faulting the study itself - it was an exquisitely well conducted study that did an outstanding job of controlling for potential confounding variables. What I'm suggesting is inappropriate is the casual epidemiology that led to the far-reaching and definitive conclusions from the study that I do not think were warranted.

It is one thing to take a study like this and conclude that exposure to smoking in movies is a significant and substantial cause of smoking and that policy changes, such as requiring movies that portray smoking to carry an R rating, would therefore be effective in reducing youth smoking rates. But it is quite another to take a single study like this and attempt to quantify a precise estimate of the number of kids who start smoking simply due to this single exposure, and then to extrapolate out to conclude that this single exposure will cause a precise number of deaths which could be prevented simply by eliminating this single exposure.

The problem with such casual epidemiology is that it assumes a very simplistic (and probably incorrect) view of the world, in which there is no inter-relationship between various social factors and environmental exposures that kids experience. In reality, life is much richer and more complex, different exposures are intertwined, and the causes of a behavior as complex as smoking are multifactorial, interactive, and collinear.

In casual epidemiology, it may seem that there is a simple line diagram that explains a behavior like smoking. Draw a series of boxes for each contributing factor and then draw a straight line over to a box containing smoking and you have a "casual" epidemiologic model for smoking behavior.

But I think it more likely that there is a "web" of causation - a series of lines that are intertwined, boxes that overlap, lines which lead in both directions. This is not to say that the basic epidemiologic conclusion is incorrect (that exposure to smoking in movies is a cause of smoking); it is simply to say that one needs to exercise caution in taking a single exposure and deriving a precise estimate for the number of cases it causes of such a complex behavior as smoking.

The other major problem with casual epidemiology is that it tends to assume a very simple model of causation - one in which there are independent causes, each of which is necessary and sufficient to cause the relevant outcome. But might there not instead be a more sophisticated pattern of causation, one in which it is the combination of a number of factors that lead to a complex outcome such as smoking. Some of these contributing factors may be necessary to cause the outcome and some may be sufficient, but most are probably neither necessary nor sufficient.

Before I close, I must emphasize that I am not here suggesting that: (1) exposure to smoking in movies is not a substantial cause of smoking; (2) exposure to smoking in movies should not be reduced to lower smoking initiation rates; or (3) an intervention to require movies that portray smoking to carry an R rating is inappropriate.

In fact, I can think of a number of reasons why it may be quite appropriate for movies that portray smoking to carry an R rating, most of which have to do with my concerns as a parent who wants to be able to have some control over what my child is exposed to when the child is away from the home.

But I don't believe that exposure to smoking in movies is single-handedly responsible for half of all kids who start smoking and that requiring an R rating of movies that portray smoking will save 120,000 lives a year.

I'm afraid that the situation is a bit more complex, and we'll have to do a bit more than simply tackle the problem of smoking in movies if we really want to cut the rate of adolescent smoking in half.

UPDATE (August 23, 2005; 8:35 pm): An astute reader and commenter has pointed out that attributable and preventable fractions can add up to more than 100%, assuming a multifactorial theory of causation for smoking initiation (which is of course probable). Thus, my argument above that the claim that exposure to smoking in movies causes 50% of smoking initiation is implausible because it implies that other factors can contribute to only 50% is wrong. My reasoning was based on a single cause assumption. This argument does not, therefore, render the claim that exposure to smoking in movies causes 50% of smoking initiation to be invalid or implausible. Neither does the claim that eliminating all other causes of smoking (beyond movies and advertising) would have to eliminate only 1/6 of all smoking.

For readers who are not epidemiologists, what this all means is that if a behavior like smoking is caused by multiple contributing factors, then if you add up the percentage of smoking caused by each individual factor, it can and will exceed 100%. Take the simple assumption that smoking in movies and parental smoking are both necessary and together are sufficient to cause smoking. In this case, movies cause 100% of smoking initiation and parental smoking causes 100% of smoking initiation. Eliminating smoking in movies will eliminate 100% of smoking, as will eliminating parental smoking. Clearly, these percentages add to more than 100%.

Having said all this, and now apologizing to my readers for having fallen into this single cause thinking, it does not affect my underlying criticism of the claim that exposure to smoking in movies causes half of smoking initiation. The reason is that the claim that is being made is that exposure to smoking in movies is a NECESSARY cause for half of all smoking initiation, not just a CONTRIBUTING cause. And this is what I find to be implausible.

In addition, before concluding that exposure to smoking in movies is single-handedly responsible for 50% of smoking initiation, one would have to rule out the possibility that exposure to smoking in movies is simply a measure of a constellation of other exposures that are related to smoking. It may be, for example, that kids who go out to R-rated movies are also more likely to be exposed to smoking in social settings, and thus, more likely to have a higher perception of community smoking prevalence (a known risk factor for smoking). Since it is difficult to control for all major potential confounding variables, it is critical that one be cautious in making precise claims of the number of lives that would be saved by eliminating a particular factor related to smoking initiation. Drawing such a conclusion from a single study is, in my view, not particularly reasonable.


Mrs. Non-Gorilla said...

mike -- i think it's unfair to characterize stan's claim as a "widely used statistic among anti-smoking advocates." beyond stan (who accounts for both sites you cite), i was able to find the assertion repeated or paraphrased only by the ALA of sacramento-emigrant trails. in fact, stan's statistics are conspicuously absent from a policy statement issued by the american heart association, the campaign for tobacco-free kids and the national office of the american lung association. a recent press release from the american college of chest physicians on smoking in movies makes no mention of it, and i could find no mention of it on the american cancer society website.

as you undoubtedly know, stan is a polarizing and controversial figure in tobacco control circles. characterizing his claims -- no matter how widely repeated in the media -- as being embraced by anti-smoking advocates is highly misleading.

Michael Siegel said...

Jenny - I think that's a very fair criticism. I had heard the statistic be thrown about widely, but I guess when you really look at it, it really does seem to stem from one source. So I stand corrected in stating that the claim is widely used among anti-smoking advocates. I'm sorry if anyone was misled by this.

It is important to note, however, that when a statistic like this is used in such places as Congressional testimony, it tends to take on a life of its own. And even if anti-smoking advocates aren't widely citing it, once the media tags onto it, it can be widely disseminated.

Michael Siegel said...

Actually, now that I've had time to think about this a little more, there are some prominent examples of where the statistic has been cited by anti-smoking advocates.

It was cited by advocates seeking a resolution
of the Time Warner shareholders, by pediatric residents at Stanford, by Action on Smoking and Health, by Common Sense Media, and by the Midwest Capuchin Franciscans in a 2/25/05 press release.

deirdre said...

The problem with casual epidemiology is the very word "casual" because it causes the entertainment industry to see the issue as just that: casual. I do not say this lightly. Right or wrong Stan is the loudest and best funded voice in the room, and therefore colleagues in Hollywood see this as just more number crunching, something they do each week with the box office. There was a study done by Dr Debra Glik at UCLA (published by Tobaco Control online) that charts out the studies that show enormous rates of youth smoking due to exposure to tobacco in film, and shows case by case that either there was too small a samle size or what have you. But the problem is real and still exists. Faulty data to draw attention is not a help, it is a hinderance to those of us working inside the Hollywood Community.

Mrs. Non-Gorilla said...

c'mon mike, let's get back to what you said in the original post -- "widely used statistic among anti-smoking advocates." the time warner resolution calls for the board of directors to report the impact of smoking in movies on adolescents and to report any plans on minimizing such impact in the future. that's hardly an anti-smoking resolution, and there's nothing to indicate the resolution was put forward by "anti-smoking advocates" rather than any other socially-conscious group.

the gate article actually properly describes the dartmouth study as finding a correlation.

the ASH link is a verbatim copy of a business wire article. ASH contributes no analysis or commentary of its own, so it's a stretch to say they're using the study for anything.

common sense media -- i think it's a stretch to call them "anti-smoking advocates" -- if anything, they're media/entertainment watchdogs.

Anonymous said...

The fallacy in Sullum's argument and in subsequent discussion on this blog is the assumption that attributable fractions sum to 100%. They do not. In fact, they theoretically sum to infinity. Multifactorial behaviors or diseases have many causal pathways, and one of those factors may be involved in, say, 80% of them, but that doesn't mean that the remaining factors can only add up to 20%. It is absolutely possible that 50% of smoking initiation could be attributable to movie exposure, 34% to advertising, 60% to parental smoking, 50% to peer influences, 60% to risk-taking personality, and so on. For a fuller discussion on the interpretation and misinterpretation of attributable fractions, see: Rothman KJ, Greenland S. Causation and causal inference in epidemiology. Am J Public Health. 2005 Jul;95 Suppl 1:S144-50.

Anonymous said...

Once again, Sullum fails to disclose his Big Tobacco ties and funding. You want the rest of the story, that's part of it:

-- Jon

Michael Siegel said...


Thanks for pointing out that multifactorial behaviors can indeed have atributable fractions that sum to more than 100%. That is exactly what I was trying to point out when I spoke of the fact that the causes of a complex outcome like smoking are multifactorial and that these causes can overlap. There can certainly be more than one cause that contributes to any particular case of smoking, and in fact, there are almost certainly many factors that contribute in every case.

However, the claim that is being made here is NOT that exposure to smoking in movies CONTRIBUTES to smoking in 200,000 cases per year. The claim is clearly that without exposure to smoking in movies, these 200,000 cases of smoking WOULD NOT OCCUR. In other words, the claim is that exposure to smoking in movies is a NECESSARY cause of smoking initiation in half of all cases, regardless of whether smoking is a SUFFICIENT cause of smoking or not.

That claim flies in the face of my experience in smoking initiation research and certainly does not seem plausible.

It is one thing to claim that exposure to smoking in movies contributes to 200,000 kids starting to smoke each year. It is quite another to claim that without exposure to smoking in movies, 200,000 fewer kids would start smoking.

Michael Siegel said...

Your comment demonstrates one of the precise points I've been trying to make for some time: that anti-smoking advocates seem unable to deal with the science on its merits. When they see a commentary they don't like or a position with which they don't want to agree, they attack the bearer of the message, rather than dealing with the scientific issues at hand.

The fact that Sullum may or may not have received money from the tobacco industry DOES NOT JUSTIFY USING AN INACCURATE AND SCIENTIFICALLY INVALID CLAIM.

Anonymous said...

1. "Sullum may or may not have received money from the tobacco industry". If you're interested in facts, you can't say "may or may not". The fact is he did. A fact he once again fails to disclose in his recent column you cite. Why pretend there's some question about whether Sollumn took tobacco money?

2. "does not justify using an inaccurate and scientifically invalid claim" Of course not. It merely informs the public of interests that a featured writer failed to disclose. Has a pattern of failing to disclose, in fact.

3. "attack the bearer of the message, rather than dealing with the scientific issues at hand"
But the scientific issues have been dealt with. I have nothing to add to Rothman and Greenland, citation above. I do not see anyone dealing with the scientific issues they raise.

4. The journalism and media issues remain: Sullum once again is passed off as an independent observer.

Source, bias, credibility, and undisclosed interest are critical issues in media today. They apply here. Neither Sullum nor the publisher fully informs the reader when his views are presented as independent and unbiased. In fact Sullum and his group have taken thousands of dollars in tobacco money (see URLs I provide above). It would be reasonable to characterize him as a tobacco insider ("I enjoyed chatting with you in Winston-Salem, and I hope you enjoyed my talk" )

These are facts and conclusions supported by the facts; why are they unmentioned until now? Since you lead with Sullum's column, how is it not relevant to bring them up?

5. Your basic point is Legacy has stretched a claim. I'd say you're right. THAT DOES NOT JUSTIFY PRESENTING TOBACCO INSIDERS AS IF THEY HAD SCIENTIFIC CREDIBILITY.

-- Jon

Michael Siegel said...

Jon -
You may hate to admit it, but I am the one who is questioning the validity of the claim. This is my blog, not Sullum's. And this is my post and my professional opinion.

If you are intent on dealing with the issues of Source, bias, credibility, and undisclosed interest, then you're going to have to come at ME. This isn't about Sullum. I just happened to cite his column because he had written on the topic. But the opinions expressed here are MINE. Blasting a 3rd party is simply not relevant to the discussion at hand.

As far as the scientific issues (the citation to Rothman and Greenland), I've already dealt with and dismissed that (see my comment above if you missed it). That article in fact informed my discussion. But the problem is that the claim being made is NOT that exposure to smoking in movies contributes to 200,000 smokers per year, but that it causes these kdis to smoke and that it is a NECESSARY cause (without which these kids would not have started to smoke).

I don't think that's a plausible claim.

Michael Siegel said...

Jon -
One final note. What your actually seem to be saying is that I should LIE and present Sullum as if he makes a completely fallacious argument, when in fact I find his basic argument to be not only rock solid scientifically, but highly insightful? Am I actually supposed to lie about the merit of his argument simply because he took $5,000 from R.J. Reynolds? In this particular case, I happen to agree completely with Sullum and I refuse to attack him publicly on my blog for making a fallacious scientific argument when in fact I think his argument has great merit. Of course I am not applauding him for taking tobacco money. Of course I find that objectionable. But that doesn't mean that I need to LIE about his argument when I in fact think it DOES have scientific credibility.

Anonymous said...

1. "This is my blog, not Sullum's. And this is my post and my professional opinion."

You bet. Just as it's your choice to lead with Sullum. And your choice not to diclose his interests. Well, actually, both he and you made that choice.

2. "I should LIE and present Sullum as if he makes a completely fallacious argument" That wouldn't be a lie nor would its negation; it would be scientific judgement, as one cannot simply say "the fact is otherwise". Presenting him as an independent party to the debate comes a lot closer to being a lie, as one can simply say "the fact is otherwise".

3. "I refuse to attack him publicly on my blog" It's your blog; it's your choice.

Interestingly enough, no one has attacked him publicly here. Pointing out facts about him is not attacking him.

It's also your choice whether your blog informs readers of relevant facts. Sullum's tobacco ties are longstanding, deep, and relevant. When you lead with a Sullum item and neither it nor your blog discloses those ties, you have some choices about what your blog does.

-- Jon

Anonymous said...

Dr Siegel, you stated:
"This means that 5 of every 6 kids who smoke do so because of advertising and exposure to smoking in movies, leaving all other causes of smoking to contribute to only 1 of 6 cases of smoking initiation."

You went to say:
"It also implies that if all other causes of smoking were eliminated, including parental smoking, parental approval of smoking, smoking in the household, exposure to smoking on television, and exposure to smoking in restaurants, then the number of new smokers would only be cut by 1/6."

My earlier point is that Sullum (and you) have misinterpreted attributable fractions and, in the second quote, preventable fractions. Given the web of causation, it is possible that eliminating all advertising and movie exposure of smoking would reduce smoking initiation by 80%. It's all possible that eliminating "parental smoking, parental approval of smoking, smoking in the household, exposure to smoking on television, and exposure to smoking in restaurants" could also reduce smoking initiation by 80%. You didn't dismiss my earlier comment, you glossed over your incorrect presentation of the concepts.

Please tell us your suggested study design to establish exposure to smoking in movies as causal for smoking initiation, and explain how that study design would differ from one looking at factors such as parental smoking, parental approval of smoking, smoking in the household, exposure to smoking on television, and exposure to smoking in restaurants.

Michael Siegel said...


Thanks for pointing out that both attributable fractions and preventable fractions can add up to gerater than 100%. You are indeed correct that the reasoning in the first 4 paragraphs of my discussion is flawed, because it assumes a single cause theory, as opposed to a multifactorial one. You are also correct that it's possible that eliminating movies and advertising could hypothetically eliminate 86% of smoking and eliminating parental smoking and such could also eliminate 86%.

You will note that I have added an update on the post to correct this aspect of the discussion.

So the argument in the first 4 paragraphs does not invalidate the relevant claim.

However, I find it implausible that eliminating exposure to smoking in movies and advertising could eliminate 86% of smoking. Or taken alone, that eliminating exposure to smoking in the movies would eliminate half of all smoking. And that's precisely the problem with the claim.

I think it is far too premature to be making a precise quantitative claim of that nature, especially given the lack of plausibility of such a claim.

I'm not suggesting here any study design different than what was used. In fact, I greatly praised the study itself. What I am faulting is not the study or its design, but simply the definitive, precise, and over-reaching conclusion drawn from this single study that has been at least somewhat widely disseminated.

Usually, I like to wait until at least several studies have confirmed a causal hypothesis before even attempting to estimate population attributable risks. I'm not saying one couldn't do that if a study was pretty much definitive, but I don't see that as the situation here.

Thanks for your insightful comments.

Anonymous said...

"far too premature to be making a precise quantitative claim of that nature"

Sure would be, if anyone had. Stan gave round numbers and called them an "estimate" not a "precise quantitative claim".

-- Jon

Michael Siegel said...

I think it's premature to make any quantitative estimate of mortality due to watching movies. Calling it an "estimate" doesn't make it valid.

roxxon said...

These anti-smoking shills are incredible.
No lie or exaggeration is too large for them.
As long as their smoke-free agenda is supported...
By hook or by crook.

The truth and credible science is not on the side of the current anti-smoking "DENORMALIZATION" machine.

Bravo, Jon.

roxxon said...

If Glantz stated that a million Americans die of ETS exposure every year, there are people who would believe that "estimate" regardless of it's scientific validity.

Actually I wouldn't put it past himto utter such hogwash.
He continually distorts, twists and avoids the truth.
The man is a pathological liar.

Most anti-smokers fear solid, objective science.
And rightly so.
As valid science does not support their smoke-free agenda.

Just how much money has Glantz and his slobbering minions, the professional anti-smoking lobby, taken from "big tobacco" indirectly?

A financial rape of the "evil" industry.
The anti-smoking professionals are often supported by government funding and tobacco taxes.
Tobacco industry "blood money."
And what about the settlement money?

Without "big tobacco" to rape, pillage and plunder, how would the professional anti-smoking lobby hold their current empoyment and funding status?

The fatties and the boozers will be next.

The governments are slowly killing their tobacco
"cash cow"-"golden goose."

There will be other behaviors to be modified by the health elitists, when the tobacco industry and the smokers have been beaten into submission.

Great blog, Michael!


roxxon said...

Does drug use in movies encourage young people to take drugs?
Should heroin, cocaine and crystal meth. use in movies also be banned.

For many years the anti-tobacco cartel have clearly stated that tobacco advertising is a major reason that kids and teens take up smoking.

In Canada, glamorous tobacco advertising has been banned for decades. Strict purchase
age-checks have been introduced...
Yet teen smoking rates have not declined.
Even with tobacco taxation (astronomical prices) youth smoking rates have remained steady.

Case in point:
The illegal marijuana and drug industry does not have to advertise in order to recruit new young customers.

Could the anti-drug and
anti-tobacco campaigns possibly be having a reverse effect on today's young people?

This is very possible and in many cases, highly likely.

Health Canada estimates that more than double the number of Canadian kids-teens have tried and regularly use marijuana than they try or use tobacco.

If these figures and stats are true...
Should all drug use be banned in films and on television?

One would think if the current anti-smoking DENORMALIZATION campaign that directly targets smokers and smoking is a valid method of encouraging propper behavior and promoting better health amongst today's youth, the same tactics should also be applied to illegal, far more dangerous drugs than tobacco.

Alcohol use and abuse on television and in movies could lead hundreds of thousands of innocent children and teens doen the garden path to ruined alcoholic lives, if that is...

The anti-smoking lobby's theory regarding tobacco use in movies and television is correct.

Anonymous said...

"premature to make any quantitative estimate of mortality due to watching movies"

I see we've moved from "far too premature" to "premature" :-)

Congress is perfectly reasonable in asking why they should care about onscreen smoking. Sizing the problem is part of the answer. Is it 1 kid, 100, 100,000, what? Estimates of that nature inform policy, and that's all I'm seeing here.

-- Jon

roxxon said...

By that form of logic all violent acts should be banned on T.V. and in movies as it might spawn dangerous and deadly behavior trends.

All on-sceen alcohol consumption and illegal drug consumption should also be banned.

We wouldn't want impressional young people to have any bad ideas.
If they could possibly be led down the garden path by on-screen smoking, who knows what other negative behavior they might mimic.

al ventrella said...

Exactly. (What Roxxon said.)

The funniest thing ever was when the Hollywood screenwriter Joe Esterhas jumped on the anti-smoking bandwagon. Esterhas, most famous for Basic Instinct and Showgirls, went public with a sudden remorse for having his characters smoke. "I caused millions of deaths!" he was saying. "All the kids who took up smoking because of my movies!"

This was one of the most insane rants I ever heard. If kids are as impressionable as all that, smoking is the least of our worries. Joe Esterhas's movies would have turned them into sexual predators and icepick-wielding murderesses. They would have learned the glamour of the stripping Vegas prostitute, and the thrill of wreaking grisley death, along with their newfound admiration for cigarettes.

Did Esterhas express any feelings of guilt for the other behavioral examples he put on the silver screen? Of course not. Smoking tobacco is the worst thing you can do in the world!

Mrs. Non-Gorilla said...

mike -- and yet, despite your update, you're still asserting that stan's claims are "widely used statistics among anti-smoking advocates." how about a visible retraction on that mischaracterization?

Michael Siegel said...

I don't think it's a mischaracterization at all. When you see groups as divergent as the anti-smoking organization of the Capuchins issue a national press release citing the statistic and a group of pediatric residents at Stanford citing the statistic, I think it's pretty fair to say that the statistic is being widely used by anti-smoking advocates.

Cantiloper said...

While the point about attributable fractions is true, that very point simply emphasizes the fallacy of making ANY assumptions about the weight of the contributing factors in such an uncontrolled and primitive epidemiological environment. For people with the supposed statistical sophistication of Stanton Glantz to make such statements stinks of a form of Lysenkoism in which science and numbers can all be twisted until they fit the politically correct goal.

To point up the irreesponsibility of basing a campaign against Hollywood on these sorts of numbers, I'm going to tag on a slightly humorous analysis I did a while back on the subject. Now I recognize that I *did* ignore the attributable fraction element here... but that's certainly no less responsible than the way Smoke Free Films treats its numbers as all being fully attributable and noninteractive/nonduplicative.

(This was in response to one of the many "new studies" that keep popping up making ridiculous statistical claims.)

The initial findings of the ongoing 11-year research project found that family members who smoke, rather than peers, play the biggest role in influencing school-age children to try cigarettes.

Odd, I thought it was tobacco advertising on TV....

Oh.... wait, I meant smoking in films...

Or was it Power Wall advertising?

Undertaxed cigarettes?

Merchants selling to underage kids?

Underfunded Antismoking programs?

Candy flavored cigarettes?

Marlboro T-Shirts and giveaways?

Light cigarettes?

Ads in youth magazines?

Evil Tobacco Companies?


Cigarette coupons?

Public smoking by athletic and film role models?

Joe Camel ads?

Lack of smoking bans in public places?



... could it be ALL of the above, and with EACH ONE being ONE HUNDRED PERCENT RESPONSIBLE? Yeah.... that must be it! Antismoking math at it once again!

(At least they're not blaming smoking on masturbation any more...)


benpal said...

--Jon writes
"Just as it's your choice to lead with Sullum." Agreeing with an opinion, any opinion, of a person doesn't mean you agree with that person's affiliation or lifestyle.

"And your choice not to diclose his interests. Well, actually, both he and you made that choice."
A bold statement - and an accusation? Michael's interest is clearly stated on this page under "About me". Now that you mention it, Michael forgot to disclose the interest of Stanton Glantz, too. Or do you naively think Glantz has purely scientific interests? Who is paying his studies (and his mortgage, as he likes ot say)? Is Big Pharma not an interest group?


benpal said...

If children seem to be so easily influenced in their lifestyle by what they see in movies, then why is violence silently tolerated in movies (and don't tell me that the ratings will prevent them from seeing what they are not supposed to see)?

But the real the problem is much more profound. The trend seems to go in a direction where children get their value system from outside sources rather than from their parents and families. Not only this, but families become more and more deresponsibilized. The government jumps in and takes over parental responsibility, puts "political correctness" before individual choices. What might be good in one case might be wrong in another case; life is not a written set of rules.
It is this trend which is dangerous and which is fostered by this type of "studies", claiming to be the wisdom of this world. Uniformity through indoctrination.


Mrs. Non-Gorilla said...

mike -- if you read the med students article, they never mention the study, the writer does -- and as i pointed out, correctly describes the study as finding a CORRELATION. as for the monks, you didn't post a link, so i can't evaluate their use of the stat.

Anonymous said...

Above all, what all of you seem to not speak to, is the fact that nothing short of accuracy, as much as we can get accracy on this, will move Hollywood. It is not about which stat can we best "attack" with.

Hollywood has no financial interest any longer (and no one has proved this is not the case) in perpetuating smoking on screen, so you have to speak to them at their level, with their fears, needs and wants in mind just as you would speak to any group regarding cessation and denormalization.

Has anyone supported the idea of helping the unions health plans, for ex, by charging for smoking in a scene for every union member exposed to ETS? SAG tried to pass this in their last collective bargaining agreement. No. And this would speak to Hollywood because it would bulk up their suffering Pension and health funds, and PROTECT THE WORKERS on set, which I thought was what public health advocates were supposed to do anyway. if you did this it would be costly to smoke in a film, and would decrease onset use and thereby decrease on screen use.

But instead most advocates just want to attack.

I lectured to the Public Health grad students at YALE and the professor had to stop the class to explain what I was talking about when I spoke of "the black list". You suffer the perils of many other health and special interest groups of not being heard in Hollywood if you are not heard with a clear, accurate voice and with knowledge of the industry's history. And the attacking of colleagues adds to this perception of being fractious so Hollywood just moves on.

This all said comparisons to illegal drug use in film is not valid (it became a criteria for an R rating after Nancy Reagan).
And why is no one at SFM talking about the new study out of NJ that smoking in films is perceived by young people as a negative stereotype?

Cantiloper said...

Anonymous wrote (And *why* are people posting as anonymous on here? Is this subject *so* dangerous, have the Antismokers become *so* powerful, that people are afraid of losing their jobs just because they have some slight disagreement with the dogma?)… In any event, Anonymous wrote:

“Has anyone supported the idea of helping the unions health plans, for ex, by charging for smoking in a scene for every union member exposed to ETS? …if you did this it would be costly to smoke in a film, and would decrease onset use and thereby decrease on screen use.”

Costly to smoke? Are you serious?

How much will it normally cost a health plan if one of its members develops lung cancer? Let’s be generous and say $100,000 so no one will think I’m trying to minimize things.

Even if we take the discredited EPA figures of a 19% increase over the base .4% rate for nonsmokers, we’re talking about 1 chance in 1,000 increase after 40 years of daily work and/or home exposure in relatively unventilated surroundings.

40 years at 12 hours a day for say… oh… 350 days a year (we’ll assume some vacation time and use 12 to compensate for those with only work OR home exposure). Hmmm… 40*12*350 = 168,000. That means that for a one hour exposure, EVEN IF you accept the EPA’s exaggerated figures, you’ve got an increased risk of 1/1000 * 1/168,000, or 1 in 168 million of contracting lung cancer from being around smokers for an hour while filming a scene.

So if I’m Arnie Schwarzenegger, and I’m on a set where someone smokes for an hour while filming a scene with my, my health plan would then have to charge Universal Pictures 1/168,000,000th of $1,000.

Universal Pictures, in the course of filming a $50 million dollar movie, would then be forced to pay… hmm… .00059 cents to the health plan. Of course they might want to make a bit of a profit on the side, so they might unfairly charge Universal an extra 1/1000th of a cent for the “dangers” caused by that exposure.

And remember: this is using the risk figures from the Antismokers!, figures that have been heavily disputed as exaggerated.

The fact that someone, and especially someone whose post in its entirety seems not to be overly sympathetic to the Antis, would even consider that the “dangers” from such an exposure could be translated into a cost of concern to a 50 million dollar movie production says a lot about the warped thinking that the Antis’ massive public relations machine has created.

Michael J. McFadden
Author of Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains

P.S. Whoops! I forgot to correct for the fact that a Hollywood indoor set filled with super hot theatrical lighting is likely to have a ventilation rate at least ten times higher than was average for the EPA meta-analysis. Thus, in reality, it would only cost the Studio one tenth of .00059ths of a single cent for such a scene!

Anonymous said...

And what of the child performer, and their twin, who has asthma and is exposed with higher respiration rates to smoking in a scene? Or the boom operator? Or the make up artist? And the cost to production for abscence? There is already p[recedence. The unions charge for off set health costs to work with a smoke machine, which does not produce a class A Carcinogen.
There is a lot more ETS causes than lung cancer.

al ventrella said...

Uh ... ETS is not a "Class A carcinogen"; it has not been classified as such since 1998 (when a federal court vacated the EPA's crooked study). ---you won't find ETS listed here anymore.