13 Comments »Posted on Monday 18 May 2009 at 5:59 pm by Jacob Aron
In Biology, Health & Medicine

Despite the tobacco industry’s many decades spent telling us that cigarettes are perfectly fine, nowadays everyone understands that smoking is harmful. Research using cells from mice has found an interesting twist however: cigarette smoke may help prevent allergies.

Scientists at Utrecht University in the Netherlands extracted mast cells from mice and treated them with a cigarette smoke-infused solution. Mast cells play a key role in the inflammatory process and the body’s response to allergens.

The cigarette smoke prevented the release of proteins associated with allergic reaction, without interfering with the mast cells’ other functions. The researchers are confident that the same effect would be observed in human cells, but caution against taken up smoking to cure allergies.

Perhaps we’ll actually be seeing more people give up smoking, thanks to another study published in the June issue of Prevention Science. Researchers investigating the effect of smoking bans on employment in bars and restaurants found that so-called “clean indoor air” policies did not harm people’s jobs.

Scientists at Ohio State University and the University of Minnesota looked at eight cities in Minnesota with smoking bans, and two with no such laws. Some of the bans prohibit all workplaces, whilst others exempt bars.

They found that over a 45-month period, there was little change in the levels of employment in bars and restaurants. This puts quite a dent in smoking ban opponents, who often claim that such businesses would be aversely effected by anti-smoking laws. Lead author Elizabeth Klein is assistant professor of health behaviour and health promotion at Ohio State University, and hopes that her study will be of use in future policy decisions:

“In the end we can say there isn’t a significant economic effect by type of clean indoor air policy, which should give us more support for maintaining the most beneficial public health policies,

“The public health benefit clearly comes from a comprehensive policy where all employees are protected from exposure to environmental tobacco smoke.”

  1. 13 Comments

  2. The “study” of the smoking ban effect on jobs was conducted in Minnesota, however, Ms Klein, being from out of town, probably didn’t notice the 327+ closed bars & restaurants and 10,000+ laid-off hospitality workers since smoking bans were enacted here in MN:


    By mark on Thursday 21 May, 2009 at 1:36 am

  3. The authors of this study had two separate sets of NAICS employment data: Data for bars, AND data for full-service-restaurants. They deliberately chose NOT to publish any analysis on what happened to bar employment.

    Some might conclude that they simply withheld such results because it would have damaged the political cause the researchers and their antismoking funders, ClearWay Minnesota, intended to support. There’s an obvious motivation to have performed such a separate analysis since the results, if they went the “right” way, would have made the study’s conclusion FAR more powerful! After all, just picture the headlines: “New Study Shows Even BARS Gain Business After Smoking Bans!”

    When I asked the study’s lead author about the lack of separation I was simply told that the analysis of both together was “the most appropriate” approach. I then noted that I found this puzzling unless the researchers were fairly new to the field since historically it’s always been thought that bars suffer disproportionately. I asked, “Are you saying such a separation and its value to your study did not occur to you and your colleagues and that none of you or your peer-reviewers / journal editors thought to take a look at that data?”

    Her response to me, instead of offering a reasonable explanation, was this:

    “You may want to familiarize yourself with some of the scientific literature on economic effects on the hospitality industry.”

    She then attached an old study blaming any contrary research results on tobacco industry funding and corruption. This seemed a rather odd response since my own research has always been quite explicitly unfunded.

    This is not what I would call a professional response to a reasonable question. Picture if I did a study on the economic meltdown, examining the data for its effects on Blacks and Whites. I know the Black community has a better reason for concern and has also been most featured in the media as suffering, but despite having both sets of data I simply decide it is “most appropriate” to combine the numbers for Blacks and Whites and present a report concluding that there was no harm from the meltdown. I do this despite knowing that, since Whites outnumber Blacks ten to one, any Black suffering will of course be covered up.

    I then present my study to the media, arguing there’s no need for government change by saying, “We certainly did not detect anything close to the dramatic claims that opponents make based on the concerns that they have for Blacks.” (That’s an actual newspaper quote from the lead researcher with the word Blacks substituted for Bars.) The headlines the next day then read: “New Research: Economic Meltdown Does Not Hurt Blacks, Whites.”

    And when asked why I didn’t examine Black suffering separately I simply reply that I felt combining the data was “more appropriate” while telling my questioner to study economic history and handing them a rather questionable racial pamphlet.

    My opinion about researchers who would do such a thing may seem harsh, but I fail to see much, if any, path between the choices of incompetent or unethical. The fact that my emails did not elicit a response of “Gee, we ARE new to the field and just didn’t think of separating bars.” would seem to strongly imply the latter point of view.

    The fact that the study cited only two pieces of contrary research, with one being an old radio broadcast and the other one being cited improperly (the only improper citing among all 36 references), lends support to that view.

    The fact that the research compared the three main variables in an extremely odd way that lumped two of them together quite awkwardly gives more support to that view.

    The fact that this study ignored an earlier study by the same organization that showed drastic customer reductions in 7 out of 10 bars in publicly shared data, refused to release the rest of their data, and seem to have somehow even removed the shared data from regular Internet channels adds even further support.

    And the final fact, the fact that reasonable questions were met with noncommunicative responses, seems to complete the perception of ethical questionability in the case of this study.

    Any legislature considering this research in their decision-making process regarding a smoking ban needs to go back and take a very hard look both at it, and at all the other questionable data they have been given. I have done extensive research and writing in this field, and I can assure you: This study does not stand alone in its practices.

    Michael J. McFadden
    Author of “Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains”

    By Michael J. McFadden on Sunday 24 May, 2009 at 4:32 am

  4. Anyone who actually bothers to read the Klein report (“Does the Type of CIA Policy Significantly Affect Bar and Restaurant Employment in Minnesota Cities?” Prevention Science, June 2009) will discover that the most significant result is NOT mentioned in the abstract or in the media news bites, namely that partial bans are associated with an INCREASE in bar and restaurant employment compared against no bans. Comprehensive bans, however, are associated with DECREASES in employment compared against both no bans and partial bans. It’s all in Table 1 of the report.
    In other words, it is the COMPROMISE position of providing BOTH smokers and nonsmokers with a share of hospitality venues that leads to greater prosperity of such businesses overall. Comprehensive bans, on the other hand, are net job killers.
    It should be noted that NONE of the results reached the statistical “gold standard” of a p-value of 0.05 or less (i.e., only a 5% chance that the observed difference is just a fluke), but the partial ban increase came closest with a p-value of 0.08. It is therefore curious that the result with the highest confidence is ignored in most reporting.
    Instead, the authors COMBINED the partial and comprehensive ban results to concoct a net gain in employment for ANY type of ban vs. no ban. This was possible ONLY because the partial ban gains offset the comprehensive ban losses. However, this also changed the subject. Instead of addressing the TYPE of ban policy – as stated in the report title, no less – the distinction was buried in the combination, such that bans in general appear GOOD for business, with the implication that stronger bans must be even better.
    But if there is a conclusion to be derived here, it is that the compromise of partial bans, which at least partly satisfy the opposing demands of both smokers and nonsmokers, is a more successful and prosperous approach to indoor air policies for the hospitality industry than the imposition of total bans.

    By Argus Panoply on Sunday 24 May, 2009 at 7:27 am

  5. Having re-read the paper I agree that I should have highlighted the lack of statistical significance in the results, and I admit to an anti-smoking bias on my part which lead me to not inspect the study as closely as I should have.

    Having said that, just because the results weren’t statistically significant it doesn’t immediately follow that smoking bans harm employment.

    Further research with a larger sample size might be more conclusive, and I’d also like to see the healthcare costs associated with smoking incorporated in to any future economic analysis. It may be that bans do cost jobs, but the cost to the economy is a net positive due to decreased spending on healthcare.

    By Jacob Aron on Sunday 24 May, 2009 at 11:32 am

  6. Jacob Aron wrote, “Having said that, just because the results weren’t statistically significant it doesn’t immediately follow that smoking bans harm employment. ”

    Jacob, that’s quite true, but the fact that the study authors had the data for bars and seemingly DELIBERATELY (er… unless you really believe they just “accidentally” never thought of it) refused to publish any analysis of it argues strongly for the idea that bar employees were hit with a disaster… nicely covered up by the study, and nicely in tune with the political purposes of the authors and the funders.

    If you’d like to see some of the many studies that the authors avoid referencing or reference improperly visit:


    A final point regarding your own final point… :> You speak of the decreased spending on healthcare. On the contrary, even 12 years ago, long before the massive tax increases of the last decade, smokers were paying far more than their fair share and the New England Journal of Medicine actually concluded that smoking ultimately led to *reduced* healthcare spending if you accept the claims about their earlier deaths. See “Taxes, Costs, and the MSA” at http://pasan.TheTruthIsALie.com for the referenced argument and I’ll be more than happy to discuss any substantive criticisms of what you find there!

    Michael J. McFadden
    Author of “Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains”

    By Michael J. McFadden on Sunday 24 May, 2009 at 5:24 pm

  7. Just to clarify my previous comment: in the Klein study, a verdict of statistical NON-significance of the differences in restaurant and bar employment among no bans, partial bans and comprehensive bans WAS the result desired by its authors. It allows them to claim that whatever differences were found were not large enough or “tight” enough to demonstrate that they were real, and thus claim that there are no significant employment consequences of bans.
    My complaint (among those raised by other folks) was that 2 of the results came close to significance, and were completely opposite – namely, that partial bans were associated with MORE jobs but comprehensive bans were associated with FEWER jobs, particularly when moving from a partial to a full ban. It is THIS comparison that the study glossed over, but which I contend is worthy of more attention. Since employment was the subject of the study, one would assume that more is better – and therefore that a partial ban is as far as any CIA policy should go.

    By Argus Panoply on Monday 25 May, 2009 at 10:04 pm

  8. Since the researchers decided not to measure the effects of the ban just on bars, I decided to do a little quick ‘n dirty research of my own.

    Going to the Minnesota Dept of Employment & Economic Development (DEED) data for “alcoholic beverage drinking places” for the two cities which the researchers DID name, Minneapolis and St. Paul, it becomes clear why the antismoking paymasters behind the research, ClearWay, may not have wanted the data examined fairly.

    Both Minneapolis and St. Paul (representing about 2/3 of the total data)went from no bans in 2004 to partial/full bans in 2005 and 2006. Combining the two cities and looking at the bar employee populations as we moved from no bans to partial/full bans we see the following:

    2004: 3,591 workers

    2005: 3,374 workers

    2006: 3,209 workers.

    3591 …. 3374 … 3209 – - – A loss of 382 employees. Concurrent with the increases in smoking bans, these two major Minnesota cities lost almost ELEVEN PERCENT of their bar employee workforce. And God only knows how many of the workers that were left had their hours, tips, and pays cut.

    Do you know what the word “decimate” means? It means a disaster on the battlefield where you lose 10% of your forces. It would seem that if Ms. Klein had examined and presented the data fairly and openly she might have been forced to say that smoking bans DECIMATE the bar industry instead of saying “bars do not need to be exempted from clean indoor air policies to protect against severe economic effects.”

    Now you may understand more fully why I raise the question of ethics regarding this and other sorts of antismoking “research.” I will grant that my own research analysis of just those two cities may be far more primitive, and may possibly have significant weaknesses that could have been corrected by Klein’s more sophisticated approach, but given that the researchers appear to be unwilling to honestly examine and present the data for bars and their workers, it’s left to people like me to do what we can.

    And without getting buckets (wagonloads?) of cash from ClearWay to do it.

    btw… just how much DID ClearWay pay for these results? Do we know?

    Whooops! Never mind. I just looked it up. They got $516,568.00 for this sort of nonsense. Just google the grant # in quotes: “RC-2006-0047″ Notice some of the wording in that grant document: “advocates must be able to anticipate these consequences and adjust their strategy accordingly” ‘These consequences’ eh? Like decimation of an entire industry.

    Or how about this: “…this research will provide public health officials and tobacco control advocates with information that can help shape adoption and implementation of CIA policies, and prevent their repeal … The proposed study will contribute to MPAAT’s overall mission by providing information that enables adoption and successful implementation of policies to protect employees and the general public from secondhand smoke exposure.”

    Yep. It suddenly becomes all too clear why lumping the bars and restaurants together seemed like the “most appropriate” approach to this piece of garbage science. Note, not junk science. Junk science may be junk but it doesn’t smell.

    Wonder how much ClearWay will give me to show that smoking bans decimate the lives and livelihoods of bar employees? Hey, I’d be happy with HALF of a half-million! Whatcha think ClearWay? Wanna hire me?

    Didn’t think so.

    Michael J. McFadden,
    Author of “Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains”

    By Michael J. McFadden on Thursday 28 May, 2009 at 5:06 am

  9. For those truly interested in seeing just how awful this study was the lack of responsibility shown by the researchers in revealing their competing interests as authors, visit


    and read his columns of May 27th AND May 29th and the comments after each.

    You will be amazed at the full story!

    Michael J. McFadden
    Author of “Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains”

    By Michael J. McFadden on Saturday 30 May, 2009 at 3:49 am

  10. I do wonder if someone that freely admits to using “pop psychology” in their book is as rigorous in checking the science that supports their personal bias, and the basis for offensive caricatures in their book, as they are in checking studies with opposing views to their own Mr McFadden.

    By kate on Thursday 4 June, 2009 at 2:52 am

  11. Hello Kate. :)

    You’ll note that the self-characterization of “pop psychology” referred only to the first fifty pages of the 370. As for checking studies with opposing views, I do that quite regularly. If you’d bothered to visit the Grier website I referenced you’d find very detailed examinations of two such studies: the Klein study examined in my writings on the site, and the Helena study examined in the links to the American Council on Smoking and Health and the British Medical Journal.

    Kate, if you have any substantive criticisms to offer of any of my writings, please feel free to do so. I will try to check back to answer any questions you might have.

    Meanwhile, aside from the title of the book (which was chosen precisely in order to differentiate it from the hundreds of antismoking books that fill bookstore shelves) what “offensive charicatures” are you referring to? Please cite a few.

    Michael J. McFadden
    Author of “Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains”

    By Michael J. McFadden on Monday 8 June, 2009 at 8:50 pm

  12. Kate? No further comment? If you can actually find an example among my many writings of anyplace where I showed a lack of rigor in presenting my own case, or any place where I have misrepresented anything, please share it here so that others can see it and I can respond.

    - MJM

    By Michael J. McFadden on Saturday 27 June, 2009 at 3:19 am

  13. Yep you win I’m just another dumb anti-smoker who can’t really be bothered to check your data because I have neither the time nor money (with which to purchase your book).
    This whole argument seems to centre on the age old “where do my rights end and yours begin” problem which is quite interesting.
    And I support your right to smoke, just as I would support anyone’s right to not wear deodorant, but I wouldn’t expect anyone to then rub their armpit on me so I smelt equally foul.

    By kate on Sunday 28 June, 2009 at 4:41 pm

  14. Kate, there’s no money involved if you wanted to find things I’ve said that were wrong, if they exist. Read the materials at:


    or the Stiletto at:


    and you’ll find a wealth of material that was a lot less rigorously researched than what I used in Brains. You had brought up the claim of my using “offensive characatures” in my book so I’d assumed you had read it. If not, can I ask what you based your claim on?

    We may actually agree however on the “right to smoke” thing though. I’d certainly support the right of anyone to declare their business nonsmoking just as I’d support their right to declare it smoking. Heck, they could do the same with deodorants… there are a lot of folks out there exquisitely sensitive to such things. But our rights “end,” outside of the most clear and pressing safety concerns, when we choose to enter a home or business owned by someone else.

    Michael J. McFadden
    Author of “Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains”

    By Michael J. McFadden on Sunday 28 June, 2009 at 11:52 pm

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