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To the Editor.—
We feel that the medical and scientific community should be aware of advertisements recently placed by tobacco interests in publications like Newsweek, Time, and the Washington Post. These ads interpret the results of the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial (MRFIT) in such a way as to cast doubt on a causal relationship between smoking and coronary disease. The main "error" in the ad is to overlook the fact that the control group was "contaminated" (ie, a number of subjects in the control group altered their life-styles, including smoking behavior, without the extra special attention by the project staff). Thus, the study turned out to be a comparison between two methods of intervention and not between smoking and not smoking. Indeed, if one looks at those persons who actually quit and did not quit smoking in the groups who received and did not receive special attention by the
Gullen WH, Fischer PM, Edelsberg JS, Richards JW, Steinfeld JL. Bad Ads: MRFIT Misinterpreted. JAMA. 1985;254(4):504-505. doi:10.1001/jama.1985.03360040054013