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Professor Jill Pell, doctor of spin

Former MSP Brian Monteith, author of The Bully State and now a regular columnist for the Scotsman, is on good form writing about Professor Jill Pell's study on child asthma admissions in Scotland following the smoking ban. The full article is hidden behind a pay wall but here's the gist:

What the figures reveal is that after the smoking ban there is at best a see-saw of admissions - but no perceptible trend ... The claim made about hospital admissions of children with asthma attacks being reduced due to less exposure to tobacco smoke is, at best, spurious.

By choosing to look at the asthmatic admissions for children for the ten-month period of 2009 against the peak year of 2006, when the ban was introduced, Pell can demonstrate the most extravagant variation - but not one that matches against the other years before the smoking ban.

In other words, a sleight of hand that would put spin-meisters such as Alastair Campbell to shame has been perpetrated on the unsuspecting public.

This shouldn't come as a surprise, adds Monteith, because it was the same Jill Pell who in 2007 told the world that hospital admissions for heart attacks had fallen by 17 per cent since the smoking ban was introduced in Scotland.

Greater inspection of the statistics revealed that using NHS estimates the reduction was about 8 per cent - similar to the previous trends already being obtained before the smoking ban. Indeed, in the second year of the smoking ban, the number of ARC admissions rose (from 16,199 in 2005-6 to 16,212 in 2006-7).

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