Friday, April 4, 2008

Smoking hot Mexico City

Add Mexico City to the list of locales banning smoking in all public places.
MEXICO CITY, April 3 (Reuters) - Mexico City on Thursday banned cigarette smoking in all public places, from bars to office buildings, to reduce the amount of carcinogens inhaled by residents of the smog-filled capital.

The city, home to some 18 million people in the metropolitan area, is the latest large city around the world to pass a smoking ban to improve public health and protect nonsmokers from secondary smoke.
From small towns like Marshfield to major metropolitan areas like New York City, people are catching on to the notion that secondhand smoke is a danger to public health and should be regulated accordingly. This is good news.

On the other hand, you have poorly sourced research that alleges a link between smoking bans and an increase in the number of drunk driving incidents. An article in today's Capital Times sports this headline: "Study links smoking bans to OWIs."

I don't know about you, but something smells fishy when the authors of a study reach a conclusion based on nothing but a comparison between numbers of incidents before and after smoking bans. There's no control group. There's no way to know just where these drunk drivers were headed to or coming from. There's no way to know if their being out and about had anything to do with smoking, or even if they were smokers themselves.

It's not unlikely that smokers who live in a smaller area with a ban might be inclined to travel to a nearby town without a ban to do their drinking and/or socializing. It's a mighty leap, though, to publish a study that purports to show a significant rise in OWIs with the blame placed squarely on bans (not to mention the idea that smokers are more inclined to drive drunk). Even though this conclusion might make a good argument in favor of a more comprehensive, say statewide ban, I wouldn't be comfortable using it. Does it stand up to any kind of decent peer review? I doubt it.

(h/t Kyle)

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