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Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Misuse of statistics can seriously damage your campaign

I was interested by this report on the BBC's news page. While I knew that cannabis wasn't totally harm-free, I must confess that I was under the impression that tobacco smoke was riskier than cannabis smoke. So there you are.

I'm sure the National Lung Foundation have a team of great statisticians. However, they clearly have a need for more statistically-savvy spokespeople (that was alliterative, wasn't it?) Take this example:

However, regular cannabis smoking increases the chances of developing lung cancer by as much as an entire packet of 20 tobacco cigarettes, the BLF warned.

What, so if I regularly smoke cannabis all my life that's just like smoking one packet of Gitanes? You can't compare a RATE ("regular cannabis smoking") with an AMOUNT ("20 tobacco cigarettes").

Maybe I should hang fire on ditching my misconceptions until they ditch theirs....

2 Comments:

At 06 June, 2012 17:16, Blogger Peter Reynolds said...

Hiya Rob. The 20 times scare story is from one study of fewer than 80 people. A more recent study which looked at more than 5000 people over 20 years found that cannabis has no adverse effect on the lungs. The largest ever case controlled study showed that cannabis protects the lungs against cancer, COPD and tobacco.

http://www.clear-uk.org/irresponsible-and-misleading-reefer-madness-from-the-british-lung-foundation/

The BLF report is an exposition of how to cherry pick evidence, mix in some conjecture and extremist opinion, cook for 20 minutes adn you;vce got fresh propaganda.

 
At 06 June, 2012 23:04, Blogger Rob said...

Hi Peter! Long time, no comment! As I said, I wasn't inclined to give too much credence in any case to such a statistically illiterate report.

As someone at especially high risk from any kind of smoking (I have alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, fortunately so far with no serious symptoms) any health benefits from cannabis will sadly remain out of my own reach for now.

Good luck with the campaigning though!

 

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