Wednesday, December 07, 2011

CDC Seems to Know the Answer Before Starting the Research on Economic Effects of Smoke-Free Bars and Restaurants

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced that it was partnering with Pfizer to conduct a study on the economic impact of smoke-free bar and restaurant laws. On Monday, I questioned whether this partnership with a pharmaceutical company, about whose products the CDC makes national policy recommendations, taints the agency's scientific objectivity. Today, I question whether CDC has answered the research question before actually conducting the study and therefore, I suggest that the agency may be wasting Pfizer's money since the answer seems to already be known.

The Rest of the Story

In the press release announcing the study, CDC Director Thomas Frieden states: "Making worksites, restaurants, and bars smoke-free saves lives, increases productivity, reduces health care costs, and doesn’t hurt business."

If smoke-free laws do not hurt business, then haven't we already answered the question? This statement by CDC's director seems to imply that we have answered the question before having started the research. If that's the case, then what's the point of doing the research? Isn't this a waste of Pfizer's money?

What's most interesting to me is not that CDC appears to have answered the question before starting the research, but that no one even attempted to hide that fact. The CDC director comes right out and tells us the answer to the research question, before Pfizer's money is even put to work.

This also raises the question of how objective the research process can be if the agency conducting the study has already drawn a conclusion.

(Thanks to Pam Parker for the tip.)

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