My friend Michael Marlow just published a solid (i.e., economics quality rather than public health quality) analysis of the effect of implementing place-based smoking bans (which is mostly restaurants and bars for this time period) on heart attacks. He used data from the entire USA and a long period, which avoids the cherrypicking problem that is common in this literature. He found that the bans had no detectable effect. This is not surprising to anyone expert in the area, since all of the high-quality studies on the topic have found the same thing. (If you wish to become expert, I suggest reading back through Chris Snowdon’s posts on the topic — his blog is probably the best repository of information and analysis on the topic.)
However, this result presumably would presumably be surprising to most of the people involved in political discussions about bans — implementing new ones, posturing about the importance of existing ones, trying to justify going even further, etc. It might tend to deflate some of the hype that is still influencing policy.
So with that in mind, what is striking is the news coverage of Marlow’s article: as far as I can tell, none whatsoever. Striking, but not surprising. This is, of course, a perfect storm for not appearing in the news: a workaday analysis that the author did not try to overhype (in particular, he was incredibly modest and restrained in suggesting the better-known results suggested there was an effect, explaining how those authors engaged in the worst behaviors of of politicized junk science without ever actually saying so); a non-dramatic result — in other words, the real core of science rather than some wild flight of fancy; and a result that displeases those who control or influence most of the press.
Indeed, this observation about the unhealthfulness of the the press is almost so boring that it makes for probably the most boring and shortest #UnhealthfulNews post ever. But someone needed to mention this.