LibLink: John Leech – Smoking ban working

No smokingOn his blog, John Leech MP, reminds us that there has been a 12% decrease in childhood asthma since the smoking ban was introduced in 2007 (with Scotland leading the way a year earlier).

Smoking is an issue I feel passionate about; I have long supported campaigns to ban smoking in public spaces. However, I believe we need to go further and that research finding such as these studies should give us that impetus. In February of last year I signed an Early Day Motion (EDM 2724) that noted “the designs on tobacco packaging attract children to try smoking” and called on the government to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes which many believe will reduce the number of young smokers.

There is strong evidence that packaging tobacco products in standardised packets makes them less attractive, particularly to young people, increases the visibility of the health warnings and stops smokers believing (incorrectly) that some brands are less harmful than others.

You can read the full article here.

* Mary Reid is the Tuesday Editor on Lib Dem Voice.

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  • Angela Harbutt 22nd Jan '13 - 5:49pm

    You say “On his blog, John Leech MP, reminds us that there has been a 12% decrease in childhood asthma since the smoking ban was introduced in 2007 (with Scotland leading the way a year earlier).”

    The 12% decrease is not fact – it is an assertion made in one “research” paper recently published, and reported on the BBC . The research has been undertaken to prove a point. It is poorly executed and draws conclusions that are simply not backed up the the facts. Indeed it is impossible from the asthma stats to determine just how the authors arrived at their extravagant claims.
    See –

    The above article clearly demonstrates that the 12% claim is junk science pure and simple. The authors of the report made a guesstimate on what they think asthma would have been without the smoking ban – then look at what the actual asthma rates were – and conclude the difference is a result of the smoking ban. Asthma is a serious condition, with many complexities and much still unknown. We should certainly not allow John Leech MP or others to kid us that some form of asthma miracle has taken place because of the smoking ban – however much people may want to believe it.

    The Lib Dems are right to insist on evidence-based policy. If we are serious about that, regurgitating junk science is something we should resist at every opportunity.

  • Paul McKeown 22nd Jan '13 - 6:23pm


    Research is published by Imperial College showing a marked – and statistically significant – fall in admissions to hospital for childhood asthma in England and Wales, following the ban on smoking in public places was enacted, mirroring a similiar fall in Scotland.

    And what happens? The reactionaries from “liberal” (so-called) “vision” (sic) are raging about “junk science”, armed with some dodgy graphs on an even dodgier website.

    Tickled by laughter gland that did.

    For anyone who wants to see the opinion of a very impressive list of doctorates, rather than the guff promoted by the “lets blow our smoke in your face brigade” (aka liberal-vision), the abstract from the paper can be found at

  • How a ban that mainly affected places that children don’t actually frequent decreased child asthma rates is unclear…

    Anyhow – disappointed with John Leech’s continued pursuit of further anti-smoking legislation.

  • Angela Harbutt 22nd Jan '13 - 10:09pm

    Not entirely sure that my comment constituted a “rage” – just pointing out that the conclusions don’t stack up with the data. People can read the link in Paul McKeowns comment and indeed my link and draw their own conclusions.

  • Richard Dean 22nd Jan '13 - 10:44pm

    I find the link to Pedriatics more believable, partly because I am a scientist. Although I am often rather sceptical of so-called scientific papers, particularly in my own subject, I am even more sceptical of blogs.

    However, I do question why there should be an immediate change in asthma statistics – for the reason mentioned by James, and also because I was under the impression that asthma is a rather serious long-term illness which is either genetic or else results from long-term exposure to noxious gases. Is three years long enough?

    I certainly support the ban in public places. Why allow people including children and babies even to be poisoned there? And as an ex-heavy-smoker I now find it very unpleasant to smell smoke.

  • Paul in Twickenham 22nd Jan '13 - 11:00pm

    I am a scientist too and I have to say that I am puzzled by some of the graphs in the AAP paper. For example, the authors cite an overall 12% fall in net admissions in the first year after the introduction of the legislation, but (admittedly from a simple cursory inspection of the data) the following year showed a substantial increase in hospital admissions relative to the “predicted number of admissions” for which the authors offer no explanation (nor in fact do they even appear to acknowledge it).

    No explanation is offered for the numbers for (pre-legislation) 2005/2006 which (superficially at least) appear comparable to the numbers in the first year after the legislation was passed.

    We’re all in favour of evidence-based policy. I am struggling to see how this is evidence. It simply seems to confirm that the numbers vary markedly from year to year, much as the blog entry says. I speak as a lifelong non-smoker.

  • Stephen Donnelly 22nd Jan '13 - 11:15pm

    Follow the link provided by Paul Mckeown to read the article for yourself.

    As the authors state “In the absence of a control group, we cannot confirm that the reduction in hospital admissions was solely due to the implementation of smoke-free legislation. …….This regression model cannot distinguish between the effect of the law and other external influences affecting asthma incidence and exacerbations. These may include the introduction of new therapies and other strategies to improve asthma management”.

    The hospital admissions data upon which it is based is (notoriously) subject to coding errors.

    This work may be a useful contribution to an academic debate, but it does not offer sufficient evidence for politicians to make far reaching claims. A classic case of ‘more research is required’.

  • John Leech states: “there’s new research showing a 12% drop in cases of childhood asthma in the year following the smoking ban in enclosed public spaces.”

    and goes on to make the classic lazy (I’ll assume he is not duplicitous) politician’s ‘post hoc ergo propter hoc’ error of attributing the drop in cases to the ban.

    As the scientists themselves say: “… we cannot confirm that the reduction in hospital admissions was solely due to the implementation of smoke-free legislation. …(we) cannot distinguish between the effect of the law and other external influences affecting asthma incidence and exacerbations.”. In other words “the ban may have had something to do with it, but we don’t know if it did or, if so, how much”

    None of which stops the PC brigade piling in and playing the “Doctorate” card in support of yet more illiberal proposals (plain packaging of tobacco products), the ‘evidence’ for which is tenuous, hypothetical and so lacking rigour as to be laughed out of sight were to be proposed in support of almost any measure other than tobacco control .

  • Angela Harbutt 25th Jan '13 - 4:00pm

    New article out relevant to the discussion. Worth reading.

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