Think of a number — 5 Comments

  1. My auld lad used to smoke 40 a day for over fifty years, not a bother on him. He gave them up at 70 and got cancer! He used to say the fresh air killed him!

  2. I think what they do is to say for example:

    Smokers have a 1.5 (say) increased relative risk of a heart attack.
    Therefore if you had 100 heart attacks in a non-smoking population you would have 150 in a smoking population.

    30% of the population smoke.

    So apportioning the attacks amongst the real population, instead of 100 attacks per N number of population you would have 70 + 30*1.5 = 115 in total. Which is an excess of 15/115 = 14% attributable to smoking.

    Next, they take the cost of treating heart attacks and calculate 14% of that and blame it on smoking. So 14% of the cost is attributed regardless of whether particular patients smoked.
    This is an abuse of statistics for two reasons:

    1. There are around 300 risk factors for heart attacks and if you did the same calculation for each risk factor you would end up with vastly more attacks than actually occurred.

    2. The money is not saved because everyone dies of something in the end.

    Eysenck covers this quite well in his book which can be found on

  3. Smokers pay a shitload of tax for their indulgence.
    If The Gubmint used the Vat and Excise taxes from Tobacco for Smokers’ Healthcare there would’nt be this problem. Smokers are paying for it already along with all the other taxes too.
    I don’t smoke, bye the way, gave it up. I needed the money and wanted to be able to breath.

  4. Not Green – I have seen quite a few “studies” that actually claim that nicotine may have a protective effect against cancer.  Unfortunately, given my skepticism of studies I can’t take them too seriously.  Of course if proper studies were done into the effects of nicotine, they might even discover that they have been missing out on a miraculous prevention!  Stranger things have happened?

    Tony – In other words smokers do cost the health service millions a year, but smoking is probably not the reason for their costs.  By the same token, they could claim that redheads cost the health service millions per year?

    Slab – Smokers probably pay more taxes than any other sector of society, yet the cost factor is regularly thrown out in press releases and other righteous propeganda.  I disagree that there is a problem in the first case as I don’t believe smokers cost the health service any more than the rest of society.  It’s strange how you never hear of the [provable] costs of sports injuries?

  5. It’s another of the late, lamented, Keith Waterhouse’s “Ministry of Guesswork” surveys isn’t it.   Toss a figure up in the air and run with it.

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