The Lancet publishes damning evidence of tobacco company manipulation of passive smoking science

Friday 07 April 2000

Press Release
7th April 2000
Embargo: 00:01
Action on Smoking
and Health

New documentary evidence published in The Lancet [1] shows international tobacco companies mounted a dirty-tricks campaign to discredit a major passive smoking and cancer research study [2]. The PR campaign cost far more than the research itself.  The evidence shows a sophisticated world-wide public-relations campaign was created prior to publication in 1998 to mislead the public about the significance of the research [3] – a campaign in which Britain’s Sunday Telegraph newspaper was manipulated into playing a pivotal role.

ASH Director Clive Bates said: “it was clear from the start that the news stories about the research had tobacco company fingerprints all over them.”

“Companies like BAT and Philip Morris are trying to turn on the charm to convince us they have broken with the deceit and sophistry of the past – so let them come clean about passive smoking and lung cancer and admit the risk which is now clearly established beyond any reasonable doubt[4].”

ASH called on governments and WHO to cease all dialogue with the tobacco companies regarding science and regulatory matters:”all they want to do is to confuse, delay and obstruct – so why talk to them?” said Bates.

On March 8, 1998, the Sunday Telegraph published its story headlined “Passive smoking doesn’t cause cancer – Official” and suggested it may even have a protective effect against cancer. This is a complete misrepresentation, dismissed as false and misleading by WHO and the study authors.   After persuasion failed, ASH reluctantly went to the Press Complaints Commission. After months of wrangling the PCC concluded that the Sunday Telegraph had addressed ASH’s concerns in subsequent coverage – a point we still dispute. The articles and details are on the ASH website [5].


[1] Elisa K Ong, Stanton A Glantz,  Tobacco industry efforts subverting International Agency for Research on Cancer’s second-hand smoke study: THE LANCET: Vol 355; April 8, 2000 (abstract below)

[2] Boffetta P, Agudo A, Ahrens W, et al. Multicenter case-control study of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and lung cancer in Europe. J Natl Cancer Inst 1998; 90:1440-50.

[3] Editorial: Resisting smoke and spin, THE LANCET • Vol 355 • 8 April, 2000 – see below.

[4] A K Hackshaw, M R Law, and N J Wald The accumulated evidence on lung cancer and environmental tobacco smoke BMJ 1997; 315: 980-988.

[5] See: Press release from Stanton Glantz

Press release from the International Agency for Research on Cancer