Meer kritiek op ‘Helena wonder’

Gefundeerde kritiek kwam er vandaag weer op de BMJ site binnen op het daar recent gepubliceerde onderzoek over een verband tussen rookverboden en het aantal hartaanvallen.

Zeer terecht wijst deze dame erop dat dit onderzoek een politiek soort wetenschap is dat niets met het vinden van waarheid te maken heeft maar slechts bedoeld is om rookverboden te rechtvaardigen.

This study certainly isn’t the first of its kind to suffer criticisms like those others have offered as well as myself, but more and more do such highly charged issues burst through the walls separating the political arena from the scientific, infecting the dialogue to such an extent that the scientific rigor is compromised in furtherance of political expediency. With encouragement from the study’s authors, the media went wild with a story hinting all you had to do to reduce heart attack by 60% was to pass a city work place smoking ban. This study offers a somewhat more subdued promise–a 40% reduction in heart attack– while at the same time suggesting that this amazing result is plausible since California, which began passing work place smoking bans a dozen years earlier, also experienced a reduction in heart attack mortality. (The authors carefully neglected to mention California’s reduction was more along the lines of 5% as opposed to Helena’s 40%, or its initially touted 60%.)

In anticipation of any suggestion that California’s results were dampened by the “smear out” effect described in this report, let me point out that California’s statewide smoking ban went into effect during the period used in “support” of the findings observed in Helena, and any “smearing” would thus come out in the wash. Even after 9 years of gradual yet steady progression from isolated local bans to statewide smoking bans, California’s overall decline in the heart attack rate was an insignificant blip when compared to Helena’s reported heart attack decline, the majority of which was traceable to June and July 2002, just one month or two after the ban went into effect.

The “Helena Miracle”. First it’s 60%, then 40%, which is supposedly comparable to California’s 5 or 6%? This isn’t science, folks. This is a very strange socio/cultural/political gamesmanship calling itself science and I hope somebody is getting it all down on paper. Examples like this are revelatory of the way science intersects with politics, business and the media today, and examining the distortions which often result from this intersection would be very enlightening.

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  • "Es ist schwieriger, eine vorgefaßte Meinung zu zertrümmern als ein Atom."
    (Het is moeilijker een vooroordeel aan flarden te schieten dan een atoom.)
    Albert Einstein

  • "Als je alles zou laten dat slecht is voor je gezondheid, dan ging je kapot"
    Anonieme arts

  • "The effects of other people smoking in my presence is so small it doesn't worry me."
    Sir Richard Doll, 2001

  • "Een leugen wordt de waarheid als hij maar vaak genoeg wordt herhaald"
    Joseph Goebbels, Minister van Propaganda, Nazi Duitsland

  • "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."
    Mahatma Gandhi

  • "There''s no such thing as perfect air. If there was, God wouldn''t have put bristles in our noses"
    Coun. Bill Clement

  • "Better a smoking freedom than a non-smoking tyranny"
    Antonio Martino, Italiaanse Minister van Defensie

  • "If smoking cigars is not permitted in heaven, I won't go."
    Mark Twain

  • I've alllllllways said that asking smokers "do you want to quit?" and reporting the results of that question, as is, is horribly misleading. It's a TWO part question. After asking if one wants to quit it must be followed up with "Why?" Ask why and the majority of the answers will be "because I'm supposed to" (victims of guilt and propaganda), not "because I want to."
    Audrey Silk, NYCCLASH