Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Survey Says?

When Wal-Mart released its survey showing just how much New Yorkers love the store everyone reacted with a good deal of healthy skepticism. Self-serving data deserves no less. But look what happened when the NYC DOH released the results of its own survey on teen smoking. The media's response was to swallow the results whole.

Yet when we examine the Department's own newsletter ("NYC Vital Signs") we find that the much ballyhooed survey was constructed and administered by the Department itself, with aid from the Department of Education. All of which makes us extremely skeptical since the folks doing the survey have a vested interest in finding, well, just what they seemed to find: youth smoking is in percipitous decline (you see the tax works!).

When we examine the Department's newsletter more close we see a number of interesting things. First, the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids is listed as a resource and this lends credence to the suspicion that the Department is an advocacy group rather than a disinterested observer. Imagine if a survey had cross-listed Phillip Morris.

So what we have here is a government agency with a vested interest in obtaining certain results, collaborating with an advocacy group with the same bias. It doesn't inspire confidence that the study was done without prejudice.

Lastly, the newsletter advocates that "business owners who do not comply with state and city laws prohibiting the sale of tobacco to youths less than 18 years of age should be reported to 311." What about the 110,000 cartons a day that are being smuggled into the city and sold on the street? Not a word from our vigilant health commissars!