New smoking study: Don't get all fired up yet
Steven Potkin of the University of California at Irvine has released a study that suggests aggressive, angry people are more likely to become smokers than laid-back types. This is based on his study of the effects of nicotine on both types of people.
The scientific community is underwhelmed. William Corrigall of the National Institute on Drug Abuse points out that Potkin's study doesn't exactly prove a causal link. Childhood environment related to smoking and plain old genetics also have to be factored in before making a leap like that, Corrigall said.
Now maybe Potkin is right and maybe he isn't, but he certainly should have waited. And he isn't the only one. His study is merely the latest in a long line of almost weekly research that -- whatever else it proves -- certainly suggests a strong link between iffy science and public cynicism.
And why shouldn't we be cynical?
In the past 30 years, we've been inundated with ever-shifting research related to everything from coffee to marriage.
Remember that infamous study that had women over 40 despondent because it concluded that women over 40 who had never married had a greater chance of being hit by lightning than finding a mate?
Well, it turned out to be statistically ridiculous. Seems women over 40 who had never married and who weren't interested in it were not likely to be married. What a shock.
Remember the early study that indicated that biologically altered corn that was immune to pesticide spray killed Monarch butterflies? That study, based entirely on lab tests and faulty ones at that, was entirely refuted later. Yet people concerned about bioengineering still dress up as Monarch butterflies when protesting the global proliferation of biotechnology.
It's good to remember that science is forever evolving, and this is not an attempt to beat up on those who are working hard to seek answers. However, when research could have an impact on public perception and behavior, maybe going slow on conclusions -- even preliminary conclusions -- is a good idea. Potkin may eventually prove the connection he suspects, but given the many unknowns still involved, it's just as likely that his theory could go up in smoke.