Two weeks ago (while I was camping in Colorado), Michael Siegel highlighted a study presented at the American Heart Association's annual meeting that further undermines widely publicized claims that smoking bans lead to immediate, dramatic reductions in heart attack rates. As I have been saying since anti-tobacco activists began making these claims in 2003, hundreds of jurisdictions have smoking bans, and you would expect heart attack rates to decline in some of them purely by chance while rising or remaining essentially unchanged in others. If you focus only on the jurisdictions where heart attacks happen to fall substantially—such as Helena, Montana, or Pueblo, Colorado—it is not hard to create a misleading impression. But as Siegel notes, "The studies which have systematically examined the effect of smoking bans on heart attacks in all cities across the country that have implemented such bans have found that while heart attacks have declined in many cities, they have increased in others. The overall effect is nil, or very close to it." The new study (PDF), by Robin Mathews of the Duke Clinical Research Institute, fits this pattern.
So in light of this new evidence is it tooo late to go back and reconsider the wisdom of smoking bans? Yes, of course it is. Like taxes, once regulations and restrictions are in place they are almost impossible to overturn. Which is why they must be fought tooth-and-nail when they are first proposed. Keep that in mind next time.
SP BREAKS NEWS: Rick Perry has just released a statement about Minnesota's smoking ban:
At the end of the day, you may criticize them about the way that they went about it, but at the end of the day, they erred on the side of life. And that's what this is really all about for me.
According to sources, Perry's campaign will next be releasing a statement advocating mandataory monthly colorectal exams for all citizens and compulsory helmet use for any persons not laying flat on the floor in a spread eagle position.