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?