I quite enjoy messing around with numbers.

In particular I quite enjoy messing around with graphs.

The other day I came across some figures.  ASH in their inimitable fashion were hopping up and down in a somewhat frenzied way because they had found the World's Worst Smokers.  Or to put it in layman's terms, those OECD countries which still had "high" smoking rates.

Now ASH just love correlating figures and statistics to prove their point.  They can prove using figures that all cheeeldren living within a mile of a smoker will eventually die.  They can prove that one cigarette butt in the gutter is equivalent to fifteen quintillion tons of non-degradable landfill every year.  They can prove that one cubic centimeter of e-liquid can annihilate a city the size of New York.

I thought I'd give them a hand.

I took their figures for the "worst" 22 countries, sorted them and put them in a graph.

Now that doesn't really prove anything except that the Greeks [good old Greeks!] on the left smoke twice as many fags as the South Africans on the right.

I then decided to look up rates of cancer deaths.  After all, we all know that cigarettes cause every form of known cancer and even some unknown ones.  I made a graph of cancer deaths for the same 22 countries.

Now to me that looks like a pretty clear correlation?  I am really getting somewhere.

Oh, hold on?  Damn!  I just realised both graphs are sorted.  What I really need to do is combine them by country?  It's a very simple mistake and I'm sure those nice people in ASH do it all the time.

Damn but that looks messy!  Look at those bloody Indonesians, screwing up my nice graph with a death rate as low as South Africa, and they're the second highest smokers?  The fucking Greeks aren't helping either?

I'm really really sorry, ASH.  I did my best but I can't find any correlation whatsoever.  According to my carefully crafted graph, it seems like cancer deaths bear no relation whatsoever to the smoking rates.  I know that's a massive disappointment.

Can you please teach me how to torture the figures just to prove my point?

It's only fair to share...

An apology to ASH — 28 Comments

1. Not only poor ASH but all (un)Public Health Services & Organizations plus let us not forget the world's political controlling organization WHO FCTC who love to demonize smokers & the new enemy, Vapers, for being mass murderers….. But I'm sure they will be silent about your graphs until they can work out way to say, " Look it takes less of those dirty Vaping smokers to kill more children than our propagandarist said." Or something along those lines.

• I really should have included death from vaping in my graphs, but I wasn't able to find any.  Maybe [seeing as we all now know that electrofag vapour is 130% pure formaldehyde] I should seek out deaths from the latter?

2. Grandad it is very unfair of you to use facts amd logic against those who only deal in prejudice and deceit.It should be obvious that their only interest in graphs and arithmetic is when they believe they can be distorted or massaged in order to result in their getting more money from taxpayers.

Seriously though , good article well and clearly expressed.

• My spellchecker has no problems with me?  No squiggles?  But I suppose it knows I exist because it's on my laptop.

On the other hand, it doesn't recognise spellchecker so maybe it's a Nihilist?  It apparently wants to be called SpellCheckAsYouType.  It can fuck off.

3. Yes, the Greeks are real champs when it comes to smoking. They have a per capita consumption of about 2900 fags per annum, as compared to the indoctrinated Brits, who can only manage a meagre 750, the wussies. However, Greece equals UK for life expectancy, enjoying an equal fourth spot on the global rankings.

Makes you wonder, eh?

SMOKING KILLS, they tell us (over and over and over again), but smoking is obviously somewhat arbitrary in who it selects for the chop, it would seem.

Or could it be……no, no, if I utter such heresy the Inquisitors from TC will be knocking on my door, demanding my re-education.

• Maybe smoking kills in some different way that it isn't death that we know it?  That way all their figures could be correct whereas we stubbornly stick with the traditional form of death?  This is very confusing!

4. See, where you went wrong was to use *actual* empirical data rather than to use data that you made up to show what would have (probably) happened if you didnt immediately castrate every smoker, smokers friend and smokers pet budgie.

I think you'll find imaginary data is much more malleable, and a pure joy to work with. Statistically speaking.

• Welcome, Neil!  So what you are saying is that I should invent numbers to fit the outcome?

OK.  I'll try that –

WOW!  That is AMAZING!  Just look at the correlation.  😯

It's no wonder that ASH's figures always manage to prove their point of view…..

5. Neil has it largely correct.  If you start trying to use real numbers, or even official government statistics, you're bound to end up in a mess trying to prove any antismoking stuff.  If you had taken a moment and asked the folks at ASH for their ESTIMATE of how many cancers would occur in each country IN THE FUTURE, then I'm sure you would have found much more pleasing results graphically.

It also helps if you do all computations in Roman Numerals.

Plus it makes you look more ejjikated.

– MJM

• I thought I did quite well with my invented numbers?  Maybe they'll accept them as a substitute for estimated numbers?

Not sure about Roman Numerals though – I always found them tricky to multiply.  I'll just call myself Professor.  That should do it?

6. If you were working on the same principle as ASH & Co (that the advantages of prohibition can be demonstrated by any convenient health figures pulled up at random from the year after it was introduced) Hungary ought to be bottom of that cancer chart.

A couple of years back they brought in a daft system whereby to buy fags you have to go into special government shops with a big '18' sign outside to embarrass the hell out of punters – bit like the way mucky book shops used to be flagged up in the UK.

Of course, in reality, Hungarians get by on the black economy, smuggling is rife and public employees are routinely on the take to get by because nothing works, but, hey, you can't argue with the figures (as ASH would say).

• Apart from punitive taxes [which more than likely fund our respective health services] have any of their measures ever had any effect?  I can't think of a single one.

7. If folks aren't dying of cancer then they're dying of something else. Country X might have a very low cancer rate because of correspondingly high homicide / suicide / traffic accident rates.

It's just another example of how not to play with incomplete numbers (which I'm sure is what you were getting at in the first place)

And yes, ASH are still evil manipulative bastards.

• Welcome, Geoff!  Indeed, even using cancer deaths as a yardstick is meaningless, as non-smokers are counted amongst those.  There is no earthly way of determining who "dies from smoking".  An eighty a day smoker may die of lung cancer, and there is a probability there that cigarettes were to blame but there is no definitive proof.  Also the figures give mortality rates but they don't indicate the ages of the victims. For all we know, they might all have been in their nineties!

8. I did the same thing about 2 years ago on american states and smoking rates same result happened grandad!

It didnt matter if smoking rates were higher or 3 times lower the rates of death and incidence trended precisely.

The ranking goes for all cancer deaths/mortality:

Per 100,000 population CDC NUMBERS/ smoking rates from tobacco free kids

Kentucky at 207 Adults in Kentucky who smoke* 29.0% (971,000)

Miss. 200 Adults in Mississippi who smoke* 26.0% (579,300)

West Virginia 196 Adults in West Virginia who smoke* 28.6% (420,500)

Louisianna 196 Adults in Louisiana who smoke* 25.7% (888,300)

Arkansas 193 Adults in Arkansas who smoke* 27.0% (601,400)

Alabama 190 Adults in Alabama who smoke* 24.3% (893,100)

Indiana 187 Adults in Indiana who smoke* 25.6% (1,259,300)

Maine 186 Adults in Maine who smoke* 22.8% (241,400)

Missouri 184 Adults in Missouri who smoke* 25.0% (1,149,600)

Delaware 184 Adults in Delaware who smoke* 21.8% (153,100)

South Carolina 182 Adults in South Carolina who smoke* 23.1% (831,200)

Lung and Bronchus. Invasive Cancer Incidence Rates and 95% Confidence Intervals by Age and Race and Ethnicity, United States (Table 3.15.1.1M) *†‡

Rates are per 100,000 persons. Rates are per 100,000 persons.

Note the age where LC is found…………..OLD AGE group incidence hits the 500/100,000 at age 75-85

AGE it seems is the deciding factor……….

http://nccd.cdc.gov/uscs/… Cancer Sites Combined&Year=2010&Site=Lung and Bronchus&SurveyInstanceID=1

• Welcome Jack!  There was a bit of a blip in the link you gave.  I corrected it and hope I found the correct reference?

I have also run similar comparisons in the past [can't find 'em now but they are somewhere in the dusty bowels of this site] and came up with the same random graphs.  In this particular case I just chose the countries ASH were blowing so hard about.

Of course age is a deciding factor.  People are living longer, and seeing as cancer is very much an old folk's disease then it follows more are surviving into the danger area.

• Exactly my own researched opinion too! Simply put thats just what it is OLD AGE DISEASES. It appears the wackos cleverly camoflaged old age diseases a so called smoking related. Hense the chink in their fabrications.

9. ….

This pretty well destroys the Myth of second hand smoke:

Lungs from pack-a-day smokers safe for transplant, study finds.

By JoNel Aleccia, Staff Writer, NBC News.

Using lung transplants from heavy smokers may sound like a cruel joke, but a new study finds that organs taken from people who puffed a pack a day for more than 20 years are likely safe.

Ive done the math here and this is how it works out with second ahnd smoke and people inhaling it!

The 16 cities study conducted by the U.S. DEPT OF ENERGY and later by Oakridge National laboratories discovered:

Cigarette smoke, bartenders annual exposure to smoke rises, at most, to the equivalent of 6 cigarettes/year.

146,000 CIGARETTES SMOKED IN 20 YEARS AT 1 PACK A DAY.

A bartender would have to work in second hand smoke for 2433 years to get an equivalent dose.

Then the average non-smoker in a ventilated restaurant for an hour would have to go back and forth each day for 119,000 years to get an equivalent 20 years of smoking a pack a day! Pretty well impossible ehh!

• I have seen similar calculations in the past.  Logic alone will tell anyone with half a brain that if a smoker [directly inhaling pure smoke] can survive at least forty years, then a bystander who only occasionally inhales a heavily diluted whiff of smoke is hardly likely to suffer any consequences whatsoever.  It baffles me how people can fall for such incredibly idiotic claims as are made by the Tobacco Control Industry.

• Bingo and truly theres nothing left to say, except PT barnums saying theres a sucker born every day and someones always there to fleece them. Or to some such extent.

10. Nice chart; but, I suspect that the smoking rates are only for cigarettes.

Pipe smoking and cigar smoking also cause lung cancer and will mess up your rates.

ASH is always kind  enough to include lung cancer deaths that happen to ex-smokers, tho they had quit long enough ago to have the same risk as never-smokers. In the USA, ex-smokers account for 60% of the lung cancer deaths.

Also, the relative urban-rural rates will screw up the lung cancer numbers and smoking rates for the different countries.

How do they know just how many rural jungle dwellers smoke some form of plants?

• Smoking rates are smoking rates.  For some reason they never go into such tiny details as to whether it's cigarettes, pipe or cigars.  Also they never quote quantities.  Is the bloke who smokes 70 a day lumped in with the chap who has a cigar at Christmas?  I expect so.  If a fag has ever touched your lips, you're a dirty rotten stinking smoker [in their book].  Apart from that, there are an infinite number of confounders which will screw any of these studies, which is why I have very little faith in epidemiology.

11. Oh dear Grandad, you'll never get a career in Public Health with graphs like that. That is not the way to do it at all. If you'd paid a real professional then they would have told you how to do it. This is the trouble with amateurs and it's why Public Health professionals never want to hear from them.

Anyway, here's how it should be done:
Plot figures for Hungary, Russia, France and the UK. They are the only relevant ones and they show a lovely correlation. Job done!

P.S. Using imaginary numbers and/or estimating future deaths are highly recommended too.

• "They are the only relevant ones and they show a lovely correlation"

Until some impish amateur comes along and upsets the apple-cart again by plotting LC rates versus smoking prevalence for women in those respective countries.
Bearing in mind that Hungary and France have roughly the same female smoking rates (France: around 28%; Hungary: 26.5% in 2012) and that Russian women are reported to light up only slightly less often than their British counterparts (15% to 19%), the health 'outcome' is rather unsettling for your average TC drone or hater: female LC death rates per 100,000 population (all ages) are 61 in Hungary (2013); 50 in the UK (2013); 23 in France (2011); 11.2 in Russia (2011).

12. That is priceless! They are soooo going to love you….. 😉

But it is a very, very good point. Along with the scary, scary headlines stats & figures are used constantly to baffle and bemuse the populace. To create their perfect weapon: FUD. Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.

Not just smoking or vaping, but food, climate change (in either direction), war/peace, teuurrrr (or however the murricans spell/slaughter that one) and a pile of other stuff. Because they know that the average person doesn't have the luxury of time to work out what's truth or lie.

a 100% improvement of x is meaningless if x equals f*ck all…..

• What really baffles me is how people are taken in by the rhetoric when they only have to open their eyes and look around to see how false it is.  Generations grew up in a smog of cigarette smoke, but according to ASH they/we should all be dead.  According to the climate mob the Sahara Desert should by now be encroaching on the middle of Europe but it isn't.  I swear if the weather forecaster said it's lovely, warm and sunny out that they'd go for a picnic on the beach despite the blizzard that's actually blowing?

• There is no danger from second-hand smoke, period. In America, the Baby Boom produced over 75 million kids, and smoking was very popular during that time.

Exposure to SHS was prevalent everywhere people went: in homes, yards, parks and playgrounds; in dime stores, drugstores, supermarkets – in every store, as well as banks, post offices, libraries, anywhere that people gathered. Also in cars, buses, taxis, planes and trains.

There were smokers in diners, cafes, restaurants; in hotels, barber shops, beauty salons; in hospitals, waiting rooms, stations, lobbies, airports, and in all vacation spots and summer camps. There was smoking at swimming pools, beaches and all the sports venues; at parties, church events, any type of social gathering. There was smoking from neighbors, visitors, relatives and older siblings; from babysitters, coaches, even from den mothers and scout leaders.

Think about it. Children were constantly exposed to SHS everywhere they went, every day of their lives.

Did they all die? Did they get diseased? Did they develop asthma? Nope. But according to today’s whingers (it's for the cheeeeeldren!), none of those kids should have made it past the crib. With all that SHS exposure, the schools should have been half-empty on a daily basis, with hoards of absentee kids filling up the hospitals. Such was never the case, and you can’t re-write the history. All those kids managed perfectly well. These are facts.

All the anti-smokers got is junk science, propaganda and drivel..