FOREST still inhabits flat earth: ASH heaps scorn on tobacco industry passive smoking ‘research’

Wednesday 16 August 2000

Press release – Immediate release 16th August 2000

ASH dismissed new polling research to be released by tobacco industry front group FOREST [1]

FOREST, a front group which is 96 percent funded by the tobacco industry, has conducted polling which shows that publicans and restaurant owners are alarmed about a total ban on smoking to be imposed in their premises. ASH was quick to point out that this has not actually been proposed by the government, the Health and Safety Executive, the hospitality industry trade associations or even by ASH.


ASH piled scorn on FOREST’s efforts to discredit the research in passive smoking.  Clive Bates, Director of ASH said:

“On passive smoking, FOREST is still living on a flat earth inhabited by scientific dinosaurs. The fact is there is an overwhelming scientific consensus that passive smoking causes lung cancer and heart disease, and that it is aggravates respiratory conditions such as asthma. The tobacco industry has thrown their lawyers and PR people at the scientists, but the consensus remains completely solid.

“They’ve tried to spin the WHO passive smoking study as supporting their case, but it just doesn’t. The researchers attacked the tobacco industry over its deliberate misleading spin on the results. [3] and an article in The Lancet exposed the big tobacco PR campaign aimed at undermining this study.

“They’ve used lawyers to attack the US Environmental protection Agency and won a minor battle on procedural grounds in US courts, but that in no way invalidates the research. [4]”

They’ve taken judicial review proceeding against the UK Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health and completely failed. SCOTH gives unequivocal advice on the harm caused by passive smoking. [5]

“They’ve suggested dozens of unpublished studies would show the impact of passive smoking to be less than the published data – but no-one can find the unpublished studies. It just a theoretical fiction not grounded in reality. [6]

“The tobacco industry has comprehensively lost the argument and all it can hope to do is maintain the fiction that there is some sort of controversy burning away out there. But the science is crystal clear and the evidence accumulates almost every month – passive smoking is everything from an irritant in the short term to a mass killer over time. [7 – lung cancer] [7 – heart disease] [8]

Notes and links.

[1] See FOREST website

[2] ASH report (pdf): Smoke-free provision in the hospitality industry:
economic and policy implications

[3] WHO and IARC press releases in response to tobacco industry spin [no longer online]

Resisting smoke and spin. Lancet article on tobacco industry’s PR campaign around WHO passive smoking study

[4] US EPA statement and description of its findings

[5] SCOTH findings on passive smoking (1998) – contents

[6] Reanalysis of epidemiological evidence on lung cancer and passive smoking, BMJ article on ‘publication bias’ and critical responses

[7] British Medical Journal articles from 1997

[8] ASH summary of secondhand smoking evidence