We jewel robbers have been insisting for years that tobacco control exclusively employs junk science as a means to mislead politicians, but have been called shills, trolls, accused of working for the tobacco industry and all manner of other insults.
By far the most egregious of these flights of science-free fantasy have been the heart attack "miracles". The first of all of them was - you won't be surprised to hear - imagined and promoted by Stanton Glantz and focussed on a small town in America called Helena. If you're not familiar with it, read the extract from Velvet Glove Iron Fist which explains how the claim that heart attacks declined by 40% following the town's smoking ban was not only garbage, but mathematically impossible.
You know what? Via Michael Siegel, it looks like we were telling the truth all along. Fancy that!
Helena Miracle? Not So Much; New Study Casts Doubt on Conclusions of Anti-Smoking Groups
This week, a new study was published in the journal Medical Care Research and Review which re-examines the relationship between smoking bans and heart attack hospitalization rates.
(See: Ho V, et al. A nationwide assessment of the association of smoking bans and cigarette taxes with hospitalizations for acute myocardial infarction, heart failure, and pneumonia. Medical Care Research and Review 2016. Published online ahead of print on September 12, 2016. DOI: 10.1177/10775587/16668646.)
The authors summarize the study as follows:
"We examine the association between county-level smoking-related hospitalization rates and comprehensive smoking bans in 28 states from 2001 to 2008. Differences-in-differences analysis measures changes in hospitalization rates before versus after introducing bans in bars, restaurants, and workplaces, controlling for cigarette taxes, adjusting for local health and provider characteristics. Smoking bans were not associated with acute myocardial infarction or heart failure hospitalizations, but lowered pneumonia hospitalization rates for persons ages 60 to 74 years."This merely repeats the findings of another study back in 2009 - the largest ever undertaken - on 217,023 heart attack admissions and 2 million heart attack deaths in 468 counties in all 50 states of the USA over an eight-year period which came to the conclusion:
"We find that workplace bans are not associated with statistically significant short-term declines in mortality or hospital admissions for myocardial infarction or other diseases. An analysis simulating smaller studies using subsamples reveals that large short-term increases in myocardial infarction incidence following a workplace ban are as common as the large decreases reported in the published literature."Despite the incontrovertible fact that heart attack "miracles" are impossible and utter junk, these deliberately mendacious studies turn up in every juridiction where smoking bans have been enacted and each is exactly the same; they are all - without exception - an exercise in tobacco control lying.
In the UK, our first taste of it was Jill "Pinocchio" Pell's purposely-created lie that heart attacks plummeted in Scotland by 17% immediately after their ban. Despite being described as one of the 10 worst junk stats of 2007 by statisticians in The Times, it was believed by wooden top politicians and dickheads at the BBC for the simple reason that ASH, ASH Scotland, UKCTCS, CRUK, BHF and just about every other bunch of lying arseholes promoted it as settled science and proof positive that smoking bans saved people from collapsing of cardiac arrest at the bar.
When Pell's gerrymandered and cherry-picked stats were later compared with real data from NHS surveys, it was shown to be a pile of poppycock, but by then the lies the tobacco control industry intended had been accepted as fact and flown around the world. This 17% figure is still, to this day, quoted by politicians in defence of smoking restrictions; and ASH and their pals - despite knowing very well the figure is a blatant lie - continue to let people believe it.
When the same method of lying by junk research was employed in Wales and promptly rubbished by statistician Michael Blastland on the BBC, Public Health England's Martin Dockrell - then at ASH - launched an incredible attack accusing the impartial statistician of being a "conspiracy theorist" and a "dissident".
Indeed, Linda Bauld emphasised these junk studies in a review - and specifically referenced Jill Pell - when she was paid to pretend that smoking bans had had no impact on pubs whatsoever.
International evidence of impact on cardiovascular health
Recent systematic reviews of the international literature on smokefree legislation have also outlined its impact on cardiovascular health, primarily on hospital admissions for MI and other related cardiac conditions (IARC, 2009, Callinan et al, 2010). The recent Cochrane review included ten studies that reported hospital admission rates for MI or coronary heart disease following the introduction of smokefree legislation (Callinan et al, 2010). Five of these were in the USA, three in Italy, one in Canada and the final study in Scotland as cited above (Pell et al, 2008). Ten of these studies showed a significant drop in hospital admissions for MI following the legislation, with the remaining two showing a drop in deaths from coronary heart disease and the Scottish study showing better prognosis following acute coronary syndrome among non-smokers.I'll just digress for a minute here and remind you that this is why we are the ones on the side of the angels and why they deserve to be in prison. We expect certain qualities out of people who waste our taxes - deliberately lying to con gullible politicians into illiberal courses of action is not one of them.
Anyhow, back to Siegel ...
When these studies were first published, I warned anti-smoking groups not to use these conclusions to promote smoking bans because I believed that the conclusions were not adequately supported by the data. In particular, I criticized these studies and questioned their conclusions because they did not adequately account for secular trends in heart attack rates that were occurring even in the absence of smoking bans.
I also argued that it was not plausible to see such large effects in so short a time span because it takes many years for heart disease to develop. In contrast, I noted that respiratory effects might be observed immediately.In other words, the "scientists" in tobacco control had been told that such studies were carefully-selected poppycock but ignored the advice and ploughed on with the lies anyway. In fact, they did more than that.
It is interesting to note that it was my expression of the above opinions about these studies back in the mid-2000's that led to my "expulsion" from the tobacco control movement, including being thrown off several list-serves, ostracized by many of my colleagues, accused of being a "tobacco mole," being characterized by my hero and mentor - Stan Glantz - as being "a tragic figure," having copyright to one of my articles violated by an anti-smoking organization, no longer being invited to speak at tobacco conferences, not being able to present at tobacco control conferences anymore, not being able to obtain further research grants, and having colleagues refuse to appear with me at conferences to discuss these or any other scientific issues. In fact, it was this censorship that led to the creation of the Rest of the Story in the first place.Much like the way your humble host was dismissed as a troublemaker, so even were those in the tobacco control industry itself who even attempted to tell the truth.
It's how such cliques in the tobacco control arena roll. If you challenge their decisions, ideology, or even hint at disagreeing with a policy or decision they have made, you are excluded from their echo chamber. Dissent is prohibited, even if you're correct.
Nearly three million page views later, perhaps these groups knew what they were doing because it appears that I may have been right all along. By silencing me, these groups were able to disseminate their pre-determined conclusions widely to the public through the media long enough for the conclusions to be generally accepted. Now, it is too late to undo the damage. The media and the public have already made up their minds, and one article noting the results of this new study is not going to correct or undo 10 years of dissemination of unsupported and errant scientific conclusions.I do love the use of language there. "Errant scientific conclusions" can be taken to mean scientific incompetence or deliberate lying, it most certainly cannot possibly refer to rigorous evidence produced by objective and honest people.
It just goes to show yet again that if you trust a tobacco controller you must be off your rocker. I've often said that if they tell you the time you should still check your watch, but I'd go further than that these days and say that you should check your watch again immediately afterwards just in case they have stolen it.