“The Scientific Scandal of Antismoking” by J.R. Johnstone (PhD Monash) and P.D. Finch (Prof. Emeritus of mathematical statistics, Monash) has long been one of the must-read articles on the web. It’s always worth a re-read.
Today, via Facebook, I came across a video on sott.net which is based on it. Let’s all light up: What you don’t know about tobacco. Here’s the rather polished 8-minute video:
It opens with the eminent statistician Sir Ronald Fisher finding in the Doll and Hill 1950 London Hospitals study conclusive evidence that inhaling tobacco smoke had a protective effect against lung cancer.
I once went through Fisher’s article about it – Inhaling – in order to reproduce his results. I thought it was a very neat statistical skewering of the study.
The findings of the study were that 99% of lung cancer patients were smokers. And this was alarming enough to start people quitting smoking. But it should have been no surprise at all that 99% of lung cancer patients were smokers, given that the sample population that the study used was 99% made up of smokers (or to be exact, 98%). Given such a sample, whatever disease was considered, it would have been found that on average 99% of patients suffering from it were smokers. And, assuming that London hospitals were 99% full of Londoners, it would have also been found that 99% of them were Londoners as well.
I now think that the London hospitals study was designed to produce the newspaper headline: “99% of lung cancer patients are smokers.” And in this it was extremely successful.
Anyway, I thought the little video did a pretty good job of highlighting some of the points made in The Scientific Scandal of Antismoking, and bringing it to the YouTube era.
The title reminded me of the Pretty Things’ All Light Up:
And if you liked that, you’d probably like Don’t Bring Me Down.