Drama at the summer school

“I should declare a conflict of interest in that I ran a pub and you put me out of business.”

With this statement, a small elderly woman had the attention of everybody at the Robert Boyle Summer School in Youghal (pronounced Y’all, as they say in the American South) in Ireland. We’d been listening to Luke Clancy, a respiratory physician, give an arresting talk on how Ireland had become the first country in the world to introduce a ban on smoking in public places.

“What evidence do you actually have to show that the ban improved peoples’ health?”  continued the small elderly woman. This was a good question as Clancy had shown us a slide of the front page of an article that reported improvements but no data.

Clancy answered that there was lots of evidence showing improvement in peoples’ health plus economic evidence showed that overall there wasn’t a loss to pubs and restaurants, although some had lost business. There were other reasons, he said, why pubs had closed, and perhaps the woman’s pub closing was caused by something other than the ban.

“I don’t think so,” the woman responded. “The night before the ban came in my customers all said goodbye to each other.”

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