The Isis International Social Impact Survey now has about 410 completed questionnaires in its database, and we’re probably not going to get much more, and so I’ve started thinking about analysing the results.
So today I wrote a bit of Java to read and process the data. I was thinking of using a spreadsheet program to do this, but decided in the end that doing it with Java gave me more options.
I’ve already looked pretty closely at my own set of 40 or so completed questionnaires, and they have an interesting story to tell. And it’s that more or less all smokers have experienced negative impacts from the smoking ban: nobody is reporting positive effects. For about a third of respondents, the ban has had little or no effect. For another third the ban has had moderate negative impacts. And for the last third, the ban has had severe negative impacts.
The latter is much more than I expected. For the past few years I’ve been guessing that about 10% of smokers had been severely impacted, but in my personal survey it looks more like over 30% – three times what I expected.
And what I’ve also been seeing is predominantly negative impacts in respect of pubs. Most people have ticked that particular box.
Quite whether the same goes for the other surveys is something that I’ll be finding out very soon. But from what I’ve seen of them so far, a similar picture is emerging from them too.
There’s also the comments that people have made. Some people have been quite vocal, and most of what they say isn’t very complimentary about bans.
And since the survey has been conducted in several countries, it’ll be interesting to see if any differences emerge. But from a cursory look at the responses from different, it doesn’t seem like there’s very much difference between smokers in different countries.
It’ll also be interesting to see what non-smokers’ responses to the ban has been. My own personal survey only included one non-smoker, and he didn’t like smoking bans at all. I’d expect other non-smokers to be rather more supportive of bans than he was, but we’ll see.
I don’t think there’s going to be much need for much in the way of mathematical analysis. Opinion polls of this sort aren’t scientific. At best they can only produce a hazy picture.
Apart from plotting a few graphs or pie charts, what I hope to do is to read all the completed questionnaires, and try to get a sense of the overall picture.
But the Isis survey looks set to paint a much darker picture of the effect of smoking bans than the one painted by Tobacco Control, which is of smoking bans having no negative impacts, and being both popular and successful.
What will Tobacco Control’s response to the Isis survey be likely to be? They’ll probably ignore it, and get their friends in the media to ignore it too. And if they can’t ignore it, they’ll set out to trash it, most likely as “amateur” and the work of a “front group for Big Tobacco”.
But, if that happens, the news of the Isis study will spread on the internet, and it’ll start getting cited by smokers and their allies. It’ll probably be at this point that Tobacco Control will hit back.
But regardless of what Tobacco Control may think, the Isis survey should give smokers a better idea of how other smokers have been affected by smoking bans. They’ll gain something of a better picture than the one they’ve drawn from their own personal experience, which (apart from Tobacco Control’s media whitewash) is all they’ve got to work with.
It may also stimulate further surveys. There are a lot more questions that smokers can be asked. And perhaps a new set of questions will come out of it.
It’s December now, and I don’t expect that I’ll produce anything before Christmas. I’m hoping there’ll be some discussions over on the Social Impact Survey blog. But sometime in the New Year I expect to see a report taking shape with a few bullet point conclusions.