Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Professor Peto

It seems that Professor Peto is in the news again, this time the Daily Express, where he makes the following statements:

One of the world's leading experts on the effect of tobacco said the ban could prevent up to half a million deaths a year.

Professor Sir Richard Peto made the forecast based on the experience of the Republic of Ireland, where cigarette sales fell by around 17% after its ban.

A similar trend in England could lead to 1.5 million people quitting smoking, he said, adding: "Half of all smokers are going to be killed by tobacco. If a million people stop smoking who wouldn't otherwise have done so then maybe you'll prevent half a million deaths."

Joe Jackson I believe has done his research well, and I have copied a relevant portion for you to read.

Lung cancer is the disease most strongly associated with smoking, though even this is a statistical rather than a causative link. In other words, it has been statistically shown that smokers are more likely to get lung cancer, rather than scientifically shown that the cancer is specifically caused by the smoking. This is a more important distinction than it might seem. Much of the antismokers’ case is based on statistics, and statistics is not science. It does make sense - so long as you don’t mind bullying people out of their pleasures - to try to bring down the rate of lung cancer by getting people to quit smoking. But the evidence linking smoking with lung cancer is much less convincing than we are led to believe. For one thing, there is much disagreement about what the actual risk factor is.

The general consensus seems to reflect the pioneering studies of Professor Sir Richard Doll in the 1950s and 60s, which are still regarded as ‘benchmarks’. Doll reckoned that about 160 in 100,000 smokers developed lung cancer as opposed to 7 in 100,000 nonsmokers; so you have about a 24 times greater risk if you smoke. This can also be expressed as ‘2,400%’. But beware of estimates of ‘increased risk,’ especially when expressed in percentages; they’re a good sign that someone is trying to frighten, rather than to inform. If you buy 25 lottery tickets instead of one, your chances of winning go up by 2,500%. But though the number sounds impressive, your actual chances of winning are still minuscule.

Likewise, if Prof Doll was right, you still have a 99.8% chance of not getting lung cancer. This is nothing more or less than a re-presentation, or re-packaging, of the same data. But it immediately sounds a lot less scary. Especially if smoking is something you love.

For a fuller picture please go to his site here!

For those that wish to know how Mr Howitts stand on the smoking ban, the Blackpool Gazette has a small piece.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just hope that the Government can afford the pensions and healthcare, when we live forever.

1:57 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is of course the other side of the coin, my dad ran pubs and other businesses all his life. He died this year aged 66, massive heart failure, supposedly due to smoking. But all the taxes he paid, and his pension only lasted for just over 18 months

8:53 am  
Blogger Elaib said...

The Joe Jackson piece is quite the best overview of the whole affair I have read, been bmeaning to blog it for a while

10:23 am  
Blogger Lord Straf-Dresden said...

Now LFB - you're not developing a fixation with this smoking biz, are you?

5:28 pm  

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