Tuesday, November 02, 2010

ASH Cites Mississippi Study Despite Complete Lack of Statistical Significance of Starkville Results

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) yesterday cited a new study from Mississippi State University in a press release claiming that there is new evidence that smoking bans immediately and significantly reduce heart attacks.

According to ASH: "If a new drug were discovered which could cut the rate of heart attacks by 10% or more, many communities would probably make it available to residents, especially if the cost savings from fewer heart attacks were greater than the cost of the program. Yet a new study of two different Mississippi communities has now found something even more effective which can be implemented at virtually no cost to prevent even more heart attacks and save millions of dollars in unnecessary medical costs in just two communities -- yet many leaders are reluctant to embrace it. The study found that a smoking ban in Starkville resulted in a 13.1% decline in hospital admissions for heart attacks, at an estimated savings of $288,270."

This is the same study I discussed yesterday. Although the study concludes that the smoking ban resulted in a 13.1% decline in hospital admissions for heart attacks, the confidence interval around that point estimate includes zero, meaning that the result is not statistically significant. Had there been just 3 fewer heart attacks among non-Starkville residents in the 1,000 days following the smoking ban, the decline in heart attacks among non-Starkville residents would have been greater than that among Starkville residents.

The Rest of the Story

This story demonstrates the lack of scientific scrutiny in the tobacco control movement these days. One would hope that these public health groups would read the studies before citing them to make sure that they are scientifically sound. Clearly, however, the intent is not to present solid science, but to present findings which are favorable to the cause. This is unfortunate, because by disseminating the results of shoddy scientific studies, these anti-smoking groups are actually hurting the cause by damaging the scientific credibility and reputation of the entire tobacco control movement.

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