This could very well be the most factually inaccurate newspaper article of the year, based as it is on the scribblings of Stanton Glantz, Anna Gilmore and Jill Pell. Our credulous scribe begins as follows...
Five years after the smoking ban drove nicotine addicts out of pubs and into huddles on the pavements, the fug-filled restaurants and bars are little more than a hazy memory. But it is not just our clothes that smell better – evidence is accumulating to show that the UK population is in better health too.
Strap yourself in.
The ban did not, as opponents warned, drive people out of pubs and into their homes to smoke.
Since the smoking rate didn't go down and 11,000 pubs went bust, it would be interesting to know where the smokers are smoking now. Have they all decided to start smoking in their gardens?
Whatever their domestic smoking arrangements, there can be no argument that smokers were driven from pubs and that pubs have been literally decimated by the ban:
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The big worry was that an increase in smoking at home would harm children, who were not subjected to so much secondhand smoke in restaurants and pubs. But a study carried out in Scotland, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2010, suggested their health has improved. Fewer have been admitted to hospital with asthma attacks since the Scottish ban on 26 March 2006, more than a year before the English ban.
The researchers looked at more than 21,000 asthma admissions between 2000 and 2009 for children under 15 years. Before the legislation, admissions among preschoolers were rising by more than 9% a year, while for older children they were stable. After the ban, they dropped by 18.4% for preschool children and 20.8% for those aged five to 14.
Utter bilge from the pen of Jill Pell and easily debunked by looking at the actual hospital admissions data. If that isn't good enough for you, compare and contrast these two statements made three months apart in 2011:
Ms Haw cited a study by Glasgow University which showed a 15% reduction in the number of children with asthma being admitted to hospital in the three years after the ban came into force.
Asthma UK said the number of emergency admissions had remained unchanged for a decade - suggesting the asthma of many young people was still being badly managed... "there has been no noticeable change in the unacceptably high emergency hospital admissions for children and young people with asthma in the last decade."
The first statement is based on the work of Ms. Pell. The second is from an asthma charity and is based on actual hospital admissions. They both refer to the same country and the same time. Who do you believe? More details here.
The biggest health impact has been a drop in heart attack emergency admissions – the "Montana effect", which has since been identified in many other places that have brought in smoking bans. Helena, in Montana, brought in a smoking ban in June 2002, but it was scrapped that December. During those six months, however, researchers publishing in the British Medical Journal found a drop in heart attack admissions to hospital.
The Helena miracle? Is that zombie study still walking?! The BMJ's decision to publish Stanton Glantz's innumerate masterpiece of cherry-picking shames the journal forever more. Details here. There is also the small matter that, no matter how you juggle the figures, a reduction in heart attacks of 40%, or even 4%, is mathematically impossible.
Anna Gilmore and her colleagues, at Bath's school for health, analysed heart attack hospital admissions for England between July 2002 and September 2008 and found a small but significant drop of 2.4% after the July 2007 ban. It was the equivalent of 1,200 fewer heart attack patients, they said in their paper in the BMJ.
Anna Gilmore is a quack and that study was pure junk science.
But overall, it is pretty clear that smoking bans have made a difference to heart health. A Cochrane review, which scrutinised the data from 10 studies from North America, Italy and Scotland, found a drop in hospital heart attack admissions in all of them and a drop in the numbers of deaths in two.
Garbage in, garbage out. The Scotland study ignored the actual hospital admissions and was debunked by the BBC five years ago in addition to being included in The Times' Top 10 Junk Stats of 2007 (now behind a paywall). The Italian study was beyond a joke. And the biggest study conducted in America found no association whatsoever between smoking bans and heart attack reductions.
I hope you enjoyed that walk down memory lane. Here's to the next five years!
Meanwhile, back on planet Earth, the police are still raiding pubs and arresting landladies to enforce that "popular" smoking ban of ours.