Homeland Stupidity

Anti-smoking activists blowing more smoke

A mad scientist I know tells me that real scientists are leery of statistics, as they’re too easy to manipulate to get the “results” you want, and not the actual truth. It seems they have good reason to be. A study published in the journal Pediatrics concludes that “Smoking in movies is a risk factor for smoking initiation among US adolescents.” The problem? That isn’t what they studied!

Instead, the study asked whether adolescents watched movies where smoking was portrayed and whether they had tried a cigarette. Nobody bothered to ask which one preceded the other, or whether the adolescents were influenced by the movies.

Simply, correlation does not imply causation. And that’s not the only problem with the study, either.

Someone reviewed and approved this junk for publication in a respected journal. And to make matters worse, some people who really should know better are running full-page ads in the New York Times urging the movie industry to “voluntarily” give an R rating to any movie where smoking is portrayed, citing this bogus study.

It’s one thing to argue that smoking among teenagers is a serious public health issue (it is). But this sort of junk hurts the cause of stopping smoking among teenagers, and ultimately, makes those who oppose the use of tobacco look like idiots. Stop with the junk science and the flawed statistics, already.

(Hat tip to Hit and Run.)