Group Claims Ohio Department of Health Report Bias


 
9th September 2011For the past two weeks, news organizations covered story after story regarding a press release issued by the Ohio Department of Health and an eight page Executive Summary titled "Analysis of the Impact of Ohio's Smoke-Free Workplace Act".  In both the press release and Executive Summary, ODH referred to a study on heart attacks prior to and since the smoking ban, sales tax revenue and opinions of over 5,000 Ohio adults surveyed in 2009.

 

What the Ohio Department of Health does not state is there are two reports; a 39 page report also titled "Analysis of the Impact of Ohio's Smoke-Free Workplace Act with much more detail than the released Executive Summary.  The Executive Summary intentionally omitted information.

The complete report included a figure 5 which charted how 5,000 Ohio adults responded in 2009 to the question "Do you visit bars more often, less often or about the same since passage of the Smoke-Free Law?"  We feel this table was intentionally omitted from the Executive Summary and the results skewed by Dr. Wymyslo, Director of the Ohio Department of Health.  The respondents were asked if they were current smokers or non-smokers.  What Figure 5 shows is that only .7% of non-smokers go to bars more often.  Less than 1%.  It shows 39.5% of the non-smokers go to bars less often since the ban, while 59.8% go out about the same.  Dr. Wymyslo states in the press release that "approximately three out of four surveyed respondents stated they visit restaurants and bars with about the same frequency".   Dr. Wymyslo, however, lumps the statistics for bars and restaurants together to make his claim.  Only 3 out of 4 smokers frequent bars the same while 2 out of 5 non-smokers go to bars less often.  Consider approximately 80% of the adult population, potential customers of bars, consists of non-smokers.  Thirty-nine and a half percent go to bars less.  This data supports the claims bar owners have been making since day one.  Many lost smoking customers, never saw the influx of new non-smoking customers as promised, while 39.8% of the non smokers who do frequent bars go less often.   The data ODH used is two years old.  A similar survey conducted by the University of Cincinnati in May, 2010, shows only 47% of Ohio adults support a smoking ban in bars.  This information, although more current, was not included in either report by ODH.

In reviewing the sales tax report submitted by Elizabeth Klein, Assistant Professor, Health Behavior and Health Promotion and Nancy Hood, OSU College of Public Health who manages community-based smoking cessation research projects in the Division of Health Behavior and Health Promotion, one can't help but notice possible publication bias.   According to methods outlined in the report not provided to the media or legislature, Klein/Hood state small businesses who owe less than $1,200 in state sales tax liability in a six month period and fewer than five reporting entities for a given county and month, were excluded from her study.   Even though we're not experts in Economics, which is also not the major area of studies for either Klein nor Hood, we can't help but point out that these are most likely the very businesses most hurt by the ban.  No factor was built in sales tax statistics to account for the hundreds of bars and private clubs who always have and continue to permit smoking.  Klein's study does not take into account the increase in the price of goods; costs that get passed on to customers thus driving increased sales tax figures.  The cost of liquor continues to increase and since 2005, there have been three price increases on beer.  In 2005, a keg of beer cost $63 from the distributor which is now $89, a 41% increase in cost.  Sales tax increased because costs passed on to consumers increased.   If ODH paid OSU to conduct this study, they should have commissioned Fisher College of Business to conduct the study.  The study then would have had the appearance of unbiased researchers. 

The claim that heart attacks have declined 26% since the smoking ban was reviewed and commented on by Dr. Michael Siegel,  Professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences, Boston University School of Public Health, in his September 6, 2011 blog. He has 25 years of experience in the field of tobacco control.  Dr. Siegel states:  "the rate of decline in heart attack discharges in Ohio was greater prior to the smoking ban than it was in the first three years after the smoking ban.   This clearly does not support the conclusion that the smoking ban resulted in a large and immediate decline in heart attack discharges."  Siegel's conclusion?  "this report has manipulated the analysis in order to try to show an effect that is simply not present in the data. This doesn't do anti-smoking advocates any favors."  He goes on to say in part "By distorting the science in order to try to show such effects, anti-smoking advocates are actually weakening, not strengthening the argument for workplace smoking bans."
To issue partial reports, with missing critical data and apparently incorrect and/or biased studies, to almost every newspaper and news station in Ohio is highly unethical, if not fraudulent.  Oral arguments before the Ohio Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the smoking ban are being heard next month.  It is obvious the Ohio Department of Health is attempting to try the Supreme Court case in the media.  BLPHA contends ODH withheld proof positive that many of their members are losing money, their businesses, the ability to feed their families and pay their bills.   Parkers says, "This is a state agency behind this.  BLPHA wants Governor Kasich to investigate and hold all parties involved responsible.  We also want corrected studies with all the information, including that which was intentionally withheld, to be given to the media to publish corrections with copies sent to Ohio's lawmakers.   It's about time someone starts telling the truth."

Pam Parker, Regional Director, Buckeye Liquor Permit Holders Association, 614-565-6560

Jim Hurd, Vice President, Buckeye Liquor Permit Holders Association, 513-314-8209

Patrick Carroll, President, Buckeye Liquor Permit Holders Association, 513-484-9860




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