The Sunday Times is showing no signs of backing down from last week's voodoo science regarding the English heart attack miracle. Quite the reverse, in fact, as the paper has now provided a forum for Prof. John Britton (Director of the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies) to perpetuate the smoking ban/heart attack myth.
Under the fanciful headline 'Why are smoking bans so good at cutting heart attack rates?', Britton makes the explicit claim that...
[A]voiding tobacco smoke cuts the risk of a heart attack almost immediately – and it is this that has led to the marked reductions in hospital admissions and deaths.
Except that we know that there was no 'marked reduction in hospital admissions' in England, Scotland and Wales.
I won't go over the facts of this again, but my eye was drawn to this sentence:
In fact the smoke-free legislation, along with the tobacco advertising ban, media campaigns, NHS stop smoking services, and many other initiatives have all contributed to a near 30% reduction in UK smoking prevalence since 1997.
1997 is a rather odd year to use as the start date here, because there is no smoking prevalence data for 1997. I wonder if anything else happened in 1997 that would make Prof. Britton want to use it as the beginning of a great national revival?
Labour routs Tories in historic election
Oh yeah, that. Aren't people like Prof. Britton supposed to avoid playing party politics?
For the record, there has not been a 'near 30%' fall in smoking prevalence since 1997. The most recent figures* from the Office of National Statistics show:
Prevalence of cigarette smoking amongst adults (Table 2.1)
This shows that smoking prevalence fell by 21.4%, so it would be truer to say there was a 'near 20% reduction in UK smoking prevalence since 1997.'
Is it too much to ask for the Director of the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies to get these basic facts right?
* Official stats for 2008 are not yet available. The government's target is to reduce smoking prevalence to 21% by 2010. Even if that happens - and there is no evidence that it will - it will still not represent a 30% drop since 1997.