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Credit where credit's due

Brian Taylor | 15:11 UK time, Monday, 10 September 2007

Aren’t those figures on the presumed impact of the smoking ban amazing?

Incidentally, I say “presumed” purely from professional pedantry: we are assuming, rather than proving, a causal link. For the avoidance of doubt, I believe it is an entirely reasonable assumption.

Just look at the stats in the report published today. A 17% year-on-year drop in heart attack admissions since the ban (on smoking in public places) was introduced. Exposure to second hand smoke down by 40%.

Admittedly, the trend was already downwards. But it would appear that the smoking ban has accelerated that trend dramatically. It would appear, in short, that it has worked.

So who gets the credit? Principally Jack McConnell and his health minister Andy Kerr who enacted the reform.

But it will be reasonably pointed out that this measure began as an SNP Member’s Bill - while the Liberal Democrats say they were the first party to endorse the measure as formal policy.

Myself, I would credit the people of Scotland. I freely admit that I was simply stunned by the extent to which the ban was obeyed. Quite simply, I thought it might be widely ignored.

(En passant, it was utterly ignored in the rather gruesome gents conveniences at half time at Hampden on Saturday - but perhaps one might allow a little latitude at a moment of national triumph.)

I believe the general public acceptance of this ban is due to two factors. Firstly, the measure was thoroughly discussed - and thoroughly explained. Opponents of the ban were given ample opportunity to state their case.

Secondly, it was plain that the people of Scotland accepted the legitimacy of their devolved democracy.

They accepted, implicitly and explicitly, Holyrood’s remit. They accepted the right of MSPs, having consulted, to interfere in their lives for the common good. A remarkable event, then, on several grounds.


  • 1.
  • At 03:44 PM on 10 Sep 2007,
  • Stephen wrote:

Smoking ban in public places is overall good,
However I believe that if smoking areas inside pubs were available then this would increase profits and not effect the non-smoking public at large. Having some engineering and biomedical background I understand that the status quo was not a viable option but reducing the numbers of non-smoking people entering our hospitals through heart attacks could easily have been acheived through partioned smoking areas and modern air-filtration units leaving pubs with the same air quality the ban produces now.

The ban is obviously good for non smokers but has no health benefits for smokers and alienates them further in our society. A point the health proffesionals refuse to admit but they are happy that today the smoker is a modern day pariah and they hope that although they have difficulty in making us give up that this pariah image will stop youngsters from starting.

  • 2.
  • At 03:57 PM on 10 Sep 2007,
  • Neil Robertson wrote:

This is indeed a really positive achievement for the whole nation.

Mention should be made as well of
ASH - Action on Smoking and Health - which has long been one of the most effective single-issue campaigning
groups in Scotland.

Back in the 1980's it was run by two formidable women - Dr Eileen Crofton
who got the MBE for her anti-smoking
work in 1984 and Alison Hillhouse who was the wife of the then top civil servant in Scotland. The other
man involved was Eileen's husband - Professor Sir John Crofton who is I think 95 this year and one of this country's most eminent experts on
respiratory diseases and smoking.

  • 3.
  • At 04:29 PM on 10 Sep 2007,
  • m barry wrote:

This is a good example of the distortion of statistical evidence that non smokers typicaly use to justify there abuse of smokers. It comes form a group who would have been having a field day during the witch trials.
Just because you are paranoid about smokers. Does not mean that you should inflict it on everyone else. Behavioral therapy might help. We are all going to die and the people that i have personaly known that have died the oldest was a smoker (92).

  • 4.
  • At 04:41 PM on 10 Sep 2007,
  • Gordon from Ayr wrote:

The smoking ban was implemented so efficiently and without fuss in Scotland, and it was only when you ventured firth of the country that you really appreciated its impact on you own life as a non-smoker.

On visits to both England and Germany earlier this year I went to a restaurant for an early evening meal, and I found myself getting hoarse as the evening wore on. The following morning the smell of cigarette smoke permeated all my clothes and I felt as if I had a cold. It suddenly dawned on me I hadn't had that experience since the smoking ban was introduced in March last year.

So if, as a non-smoker, I felt decidedly better, it is little wonder the health benefits to smokers and the country generally are beginninbg to filter through in such a short period of time.

  • 5.
  • At 05:06 PM on 10 Sep 2007,
  • Martin wrote:

Why do I suspect that the next time someone mentions one of the govt. schemes to improve diet or exercise levels, exactly the same reduction in heart attack figures will be wheeled out as "proof" of the efficacy of the same ... ? From one year's figures, one can read nothing. Nothing, as in not anything. A sharper reduction one year is not a trend, it's a single data point and could have any number of causes.

  • 6.
  • At 05:11 PM on 10 Sep 2007,
  • Declan wrote:

Actually, it was the Scottish Youth Parliament which first put forward the idea of a smoking ban

  • 7.
  • At 06:48 PM on 10 Sep 2007,
  • Non Smoker wrote:

It is not true to say that non-smoking areas in pubs would give us the best of both worlds. In my experience, before the ban in the few pubs which had smoking and non-smoking areas, a minority of smokers in a group would insist on using the smoking area leaving the non-smokers with the choice of doing without their company or being subjected to passive smoking.

As another poster said, even a couple of months after the ban, going to England where they didn't yet have a ban was a reminder of the difference the ban made in a very short time to the quality of life of the large majority of the population.

The weight of the evidence is overwhelming even if some smokers are in denial. One 92-year-old smoker compared with 5 million people proves nothing. Note that the reduction in heart attacks was greater in members of non-smoking households - now of course they were in non-smoking households before the ban so the difference HAS to be down to the lack of passive smoking in public places. People, even non-smokers, who live in houses where smoking occurs have NOT had anything like the same benefit. It's as clear as it gets. Don't deny that passive smoking kills if you want to be taken seriously.

  • 8.
  • At 07:19 PM on 10 Sep 2007,
  • Ron Compton wrote:

Anyone know where the evidence is published for the 17% reduction in deaths from heart attacks since the introduction of the present anti smoking legislation? How did they filter out all the other causes of death from heart failure? I have checked all the normal sites but nothing posted yet.

  • 9.
  • At 07:22 PM on 10 Sep 2007,
  • Joe Camel wrote:

The Scots have made a religion of the Fraud of the Century. Anyone who is so abysmally stupid as to swallow the mantra of the World Health Organization-
"if you can smell it, it's killing you"-- needs a brain transplant.

Prepare yourselves to give up salt, sugar and fat and be coerced into strenuous exercise. And don't forget the seat belt. Mandatory doctor visits for the purpose of coercive "healthy living"is next on the list. And you won't live a minute longer.

  • 10.
  • At 07:29 PM on 10 Sep 2007,
  • andy wrote:

This report fails to mention
This study covered just 9 (cherry picked)hospitals in Scotland.
It also does not mention that 95% of SHS exposure is in the home private spaces. And the fact that since the ban revenues from Tobacco sales have increased as has the amount of Tobacco smuggling. Thus Tobbacco consumption and SHS exposure.

So one would be forgiven to conclude from this study therefore, to recommend the use of Tobbacco.
Propaganda can work both ways!

  • 11.
  • At 08:09 PM on 10 Sep 2007,
  • Kenn wrote:

Alas, I fear the statistics are a little too convincing. I mean, it is very hard to understand why Scotland has had a traditionally high rate of heart attacks in comparison to other countries if so many were simply down to passive smoking.

You need to dig deeper to understand this study. As I understand it, the study covered ten months before and after the ban (why ten months?). This means that there are a disproportionately higher number of winter months represented before the ban than after it. The seasonal dependence of heart attacks and strokes is well documented in the medical journals, with the frequency of occurrence being far higher in the winter (when it is colder).

If I am correct in that they were ten month study periods, then any referee worth his salt should have either rejected the paper or asked the authors to quantify the uncertainties. The latter should have been included anyway as otherwise the statistics are meaningless.

I don't share your view that simply because the numbers go down, then they are related.

  • 12.
  • At 08:11 PM on 10 Sep 2007,
  • Leuchars wrote:

Spot on Brian, the ban is quite literally a breath of fresh air. As a lifelong asthmatic I can now enjoy an evening in the pub and eating out without having to be forced to breathe second hand smoke which is a delight.
I'm also delighted to see it has been banned from many hospital grounds. I have vivid memories of emerging from an asthma clinic at my local hospital one bitter January day. I pulled up my hood against the gale and hailstones and struggled across the road to catch the bus into town.
The health board had thoughtfully provided a large brazier type ashtray inside the crowded bus stop. To say it was being well used would be putting it mildly. The large grill on the top meant that the fags were simply thrown on to smoulder.
The bus stop was packed with folk frantically puffing away and after a few minutes I wheezingly accepted defeat and stood out in the hailstones at a safe distance and took my ventolin!

  • 13.
  • At 09:29 PM on 10 Sep 2007,
  • Eric wrote:

Can anyone explain the link between this rather obscure statistic i.e. non smokers *admitted* to hospitals with heart attacks and the banning of smoking in public places?

No? Thought not.

  • 14.
  • At 10:27 PM on 10 Sep 2007,
  • Ian, Skye wrote:

I`m in my mid 50s and stopped smoking when I left school many years ago. I used to be able to walk about any town without encountering smokers in a bunch crowding the pavements outside pubs and causing me to either cross the road to pass or push my way through them and digest their exhaled smoke.So now we have a few bar staff no digesting other peoples smoke BUT the general public now do so. I should think that there are more *general public* than bar staff!!!.
Surely the better answer to the problem would have been to have designated areas within public buildings equiped with good, power full extractor fans vented to the skys.

  • 15.
  • At 11:13 PM on 10 Sep 2007,
  • Billy wrote:

Statistics can be used to and missused. However, if anyone simply puts forward the argument that these figures have been distorted, then the responsibility is on them to demonstrate the source of the error.
As for a partial smoking ban, i believe we would have seen a partial reduction in heart attack admissions to hospitals. But thats just my belief.
I have heard many times the argument that there was this one smoker who lived to 100. Smoking is not a death sentance, but it does increase your risk of death significantly. Think about it like this; If I got 1000 people to walk, blindfolded, across both carraigeways of the M1 motorway, one after the other, one or two would make it to the other side. I certainly wouldnt like their odds though. All you need to do is take a wander around the respiratory wards of Glasgow hospitals to see what happens to the everyone else.

  • 16.
  • At 12:59 AM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • stephen wrote:

The Scots historically do what they told. They moaned about the poll tax but it was the English who had the guts to get on the streets and actually got rid of it.

Although i dont smoke I think the ban is absurd and despite this so called 'evidence' will have no real long term effect on the health Scottish population. All these endless hysterical surveys are designed in the main to fit the 6pm News market, driven either by feminists or fanatics often both. Having the net (and the BBC)to spread their drivel has only made them worse.

  • 17.
  • At 06:14 AM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Darren M wrote:

The health of smokers has took a turn for the better, I believe. Its been my experience that smoker friends now smoke less than when they were able to smoke freely in public places. Surely this will have a beneficial effect on their general health. I think its the best thing that could've happened, although now they need to invent a strong enough air freshener to mask the bad odours in bars that are now easily discernible

Strange statistics can do what you ever want them to. According to all the economic data in countries including Scotland where full bans have been enacted smoking tax revenues have been increased, which by definition means more people are smoking, of smokers are smoking more. Either way this means that this 17% drop if true, which incidentally we know it isn't, means that increased smoking means a reduction in MI. Now of course we know that cannot be true either. So it simply isn't true.

  • 19.
  • At 08:18 AM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Gordon wrote:

Good to see a positive intervention by the Scottish Government on a health issue that has had some good effect on the health of the population. Any move toward reduction in exposure to smoking is a good thing.

One will always have the nae sayer`s that trundle out the odd example of someone who was a smoker that "lived the longest of anyone they knew".
But the reason they are of note is that they are the exception that proves the rule.

  • 20.
  • At 10:47 AM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • mairi macleod wrote:

here we go again, more EXPERTS,its
just remarkable how scotland is'nt the best wee country in the world,
the amount of experts we have,
anything we blether about,up pops another on all things of concern to us, we all know that statistics can be interpreted any way we want them, in this it makes the last gov. did at
least one good thing, i would not presume to know,I'M NOT AN EXPERT
i am a light smoker however, though
not a drinker. so now i dont go to pubs, i'll just keep MY MONEY and not
spend it in pubs as lots of my smoking do also, so who is at a LOSS.

  • 21.
  • At 10:53 AM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Peter, Fife wrote:

Is it not strange when figures are sought from Government they are more often than not, at best two to three years old; we are assured that this is because of the complex collection and validation processes yet here we see information that has been collated from 6am on Sunday March 26, 2006 being promoted as validated information.

In less than eighteen months we have a policy being promoted as a success; where has the standard Government phrase “it is too early to say” gone to, has this been removed from Government ‘speak’ or is this yet another validation of Government propaganda?

I have always asked the question of officials to name a single individual who has died from ‘passive’, ‘second hand smoking’, or whatever is the latest terminology; only one individual is named and that is never supplied from an official source.

Yes we are all adults and as such we all make decisions which are not always best for us, smoking brings in £8.25 Billion pounds in tobacco revenue, but only cost the NHS/taxpayer £1.4 - £1.7 Billion pounds per year, as taxpayers we will all have to make good the revenue shortfall if Britain goes smoke free.

  • 22.
  • At 10:58 AM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Scamp wrote:

Frankly the idea that heart attack numbers should have fallen this quickly following the smoking ban is risible.

Something stinks here and it ain't cigarette smoke..

  • 23.
  • At 11:43 AM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Dave from Balmullo wrote:

Usual rubbish being spouted by the pro smoking lobby the pure and simple answer is that the ban is here to stay there is really no use moaning or decrying it.

  • 24.
  • At 12:00 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Stephen Davidson wrote:

I don't know much about the methodology that was employed in the creation of these statistics (although I have heard it is the most robust study yet). The only thing I do know for a fact is that my life is much better now the smoking ban is in place. No longer do I have to avoid bars and their horrid, fuggy atmospheres. My sister no-longer comes back from work smelling like an ash-tray. No-lone do I have to suffer in silence at bus shelters. I chose not to smoke and I am very glad I do not have to put up with having that choice negated by second hand smoke.

  • 25.
  • At 12:41 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Paul wrote:

"It was plain that the people of Scotland accepted the legitimacy of their devolved democracy" - Oh give over! Criticise devolution as much as you like (as if you would), it is still legally legitimate, and most people are law-abiding. So please spare us the paeans of praise for the devolution project, unless you want to be seen as a cheer-leader instead of an observer. And as for the statistics...Well, it might be that the extra minutes it takes to summon the ambulance drivers in from their fag breaks results in 17 per cent less people surviving to make it to hospital at all!

  • 26.
  • At 02:25 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • NonSmokre wrote:

A lot of people are missing the point here. The issue is NOT whether fewer people are smoking. The evidence is conflicting on that.

What is CERTAIN, not only from these figures, is that there has been a huge health benefit to NONSMOKERS because they are no longer forced to endure passive smoking to have any kind of social life. So figures about cigarette sales are irrelevant here. Yes of course the government wants to see a reduction in cigarette smoking but that iis not the point of the smoking ban. the point of the smoking ban was to protect the health of nonsmokers.

People are not being denied the right to smoke. They re just being denied the right to force others to smoke. And as for those who are still claiming that there is no evidence cigarettes can damage health....all I can say is I bet they are not so selective in their evidence on other matters where they are not suffering from an addiction. I mean, they are criticising sample size (as if there aren't forty years worth of samples world wide) and criticising research methodology (as if there haven't been thousands of properly reviewed and refereed studies before) and then they think that a few people who live longer than average are a winning argument.

  • 27.
  • At 03:51 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • D. Balloch wrote:

Agree with #22 in questioning "the idea that heart attack numbers should have fallen this quickly following the smoking ban". The widespread use of prescribed cholesterol-reducing medication may have had an impact.

A bit early in the day to put this amazing reduction down to the smoking ban is it not?In my experience any widespread research needs a wee bitty more time to be conclusive.
Don't suppose there could be many other factors involved,eh???

  • 29.
  • At 04:26 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Ed Brown wrote:

Tobacco is close to being outlawed worldwide by dictate of the World Health Organization--The political arm of the international medical establishment. If and when this occurs, Big Pharma will have a vastly increased market for antidepressants,sleep aids,weight loss drugs and anything else related to quitting smoking. Their income numbers won't fit on a calculator and they'll
rule the world including you.

But your clothes won't stink of anything but sweat.

  • 30.
  • At 05:05 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Peter Mason wrote:

Ye Gods.

For the first time one of these blogs without the 'evil Anglo-Saxons' being blamed for imposing something on the Scots! Presumably a dearth of nicotine has distracted you all.

  • 31.
  • At 10:00 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Colin Grainger wrote:

I note that the ban fans are more than happy to ignore the glaring errors in their ever more desperate attempts to pound a square peg into a round hole.

Consider a few flaws, if you will:

1. This study has NOT been published.

2. This study has NOT been peer reviewed.

3. There is NO control group.

4. They do NOT state the methodology used.

5. They did not include tobacco sales in their study.

6. They did NOT factor in the unprecedented amounts of statins being prescribed.

7. The study spans 10 months. 10 months!!

Any one of the above renders the study meaningless.

Take them all together and you have a work of fiction that Hans Christian Andersen would have been proud to put his name to.

Just because you don't like a little harmless smoke there is no reason to ignore the facts.

Think with your brains, not your noses.

  • 32.
  • At 12:07 AM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • DL wrote:

Many very insightful comments posted, specifically about the scientific justification and methodology regarding the research. I see that the researchers have published their qualifications and declared any potential bias: any chance the vociferous critics would be brave enough to declare themselves in a similar way?

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