I woke up the other morning determined to do something constructive for
a change. I promised myself that I would not spend the day watching
football. I decided that I would clean the inside and the outside of my
car. I started with the inside. The first thing I decided to do was clean my
glove compartment. As I started emptying the contents of the
compartment, I came across a package of cough drops. They looked old,
and upon further examination, I realized that they were old. They were
very old. Suddenly, it hit me. The reason they were so old was that I
hadn't had a sore throat in more than a year. Wow, I thought, I used to
have four or five sore throats a year, not just some years, but every
year. Boy, I thought, I've been lucky this year with the throat, then I
realized that luck had nothing to do with it. I haven't had a sore throat
because I don't have to spend all of those hours breathing in all of that
secondhand smoke at the clubs.
I got excited about this revelation that had come upon me. I forgot about
cleaning my car, and could only think that I must go to the club and see if
it was just me, or had any of the other full-time players been blessed
with better health this year.
Now, I had a real mission for the day-- to survey the poker-playing
community in the clubs in which I play to see if my revelation was correct,
and if it was correct, I could submit it to one of the leading medical
journals -- JAMA or maybe even the New England Medical Journal.
As I approached the club, I tried to formulate the question or questions I
should ask. I know how picky the scientists are, so I knew that I couldn't
ask any leading questions, nor could I word the question in any manner
that would get a desired answer.
Just as I approached the parking lot, it came to me what the question
would be. Simply,"Do you feel any better since Jan. 1, 1998, when
smoking was banned in the clubs?"
Before I give you the results of my survey, I have to tell you the thought
that occurred to me as I was walking up to the door of the club: I
remember when you used to go outside to get a breath of fresh air --
now, all the smokers are outside. The air is so bad outside the club that
you have to go inside in order to breathe.
I thought as I entered the club that I probably should ask just
nonsmokers, since the smokers, although breathing less secondhand
smoke, still would be breathing a lot of firsthand smoke.
It didn't take long to realize that it wouldn't be easy to identify the
smokers from the nonsmokers, but I relied on my memory as to whether
or not someone was a smoker.
I asked a total of 25 people my question. Remember that the question
was,"Do you feel better since Jan. 1, 1998, when smoking was banned in
Of the 25 people asked, 23 said yes, they had felt better this year. The
reasons given were varied. A couple of the people sighted no sore
throats, as I had noticed. Other reasons mentioned were:"I have had
fewer sinus problems.""My eyes don't burn anymore.""I don't get as tired
after playing a long shift.""I used to get colds that were hard to get rid
of, but I can't remember the last cold I had." Almost everyone could give
specific reasons why he or she felt better, and a few of the 23 who said
that they felt better gave no reason other than they just seemed to feel
Well, my little survey lasted only about three hours, but I was convinced.
I couldn't wait to get home and tell my wife; I knew that she would be
proud of me.
I was wrong. She informed me that my survey would not meet the
criteria for a scientific study, and even suggested that the question I had
asked might have been a tad bit leading. Finally, she said, I should have
finished washing the car.
OK, so I can't send my report to any medical journal, but after spending
all day with my research, I just can't discard it. So, I've decided to use it
in my column, flawed or not.
So, here's the conclusion of my survey: California's ban on smoking is
producing positive results. In a short time, all of the researchers and
survey takers, with all of their scientific methods, will come to the same
conclusion that I did. Just remember where you read it first.
For what it's worth ...
And the Survey Says...
By Vince Burgio