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Sunday, March 22, 2009

State Smoking Ban Fnord

I saw a very interesting fnord on the Comedy Channel (ABC Nightly News). A State-licensed fake scientist published a paper "proving" that "A State ban on smoking in public places leads to lower heart attacks for nonsmokers. Hooray for the State!" The proof given was "City X imposed a smoking ban a few years ago. A few years later, there was a dramatic drop in heart attacks. Therefore, a State smoking ban is beneficial."

I found a link to one story saying "A State smoking ban leads to lower heart attack rates for nonsmokers."

Many cities/states have imposed a smoking ban in the past few years. Among those cities, the city with the *LARGEST* drop in nonsmoker heart attacks was selected for the study. The example cited in that link was 70%. That is such a severe drop that it is almost definitely due to statistical randomness, rather than a direct effect of the smoking ban.

This illustrates the problem with State funded science. If a scientist wrote a paper saying "State smoking bans are uncorrelated with heart attack risk over the entire country.", then he would not get a grant. A scientist who writes a paper saying "The State is awesome!" gets lots of research grants. In this paper, there was an obviously biased methodology, because only one city was included. For it to be a proper study, *EVERY* city or state that enacted a smoking ban should be included, compared to all cities that did not enact such a ban. Even then, other factors would probably affect heart attack rates more than secondhand smoking.

Secondhand smoke probably is slightly damaging. The exact amount is impossible to determine. I read that, living in a large city, you experience pollution equivalent to smoking a pack or two of cigarettes each day. The effect of secondhand smoke should be negligible compared to the background level of pollution in most cities.

The correct free market answer to the secondhand smoking problem is "The owner of each restaurant should be free to decide if he wants to allow smoking or not." In a true free market, there would be more restaurants, because State regulations restrict the market. The "evil smokers" are the ones saying "Why can't each restaurant owner decide if he wants to allow smoking or not?"

Almost every "problem" that the State "solves" (causes) has a free market solution.

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