Tobacco group talks nonsense on secondhand smoke

Tuesday 08 March 2005

Media Release from ASH

Embargo: 11.00hrs Tuesday 8th March 2005




Public health charity Action on Smoking and Health today attacked the tobacco industry front group FOREST for “blowing a dense cloud of poisonous smoke” over the issue of passive smoking.


FOREST, which receives almost all its funding from tobacco companies, today held a press conference to “challenge the Chief Medical Officer” (Sir Liam Donaldson) to prove that secondhand smoke is a danger to health. It also demanded that the Government set up an “independent panel of experts” to look at the scientific evidence.


But the Government already has such a Committee – the Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health, made up of fifteen of the most eminent medical scientists in Britain, which reported on the issue in November last year. The Executive Summary of the latest report reveals that:

·         There is an increased risk of lung cancer for non-smokers exposed to secondhand smoke of about 24%

·         There is an increased risk of ischaemic heart disease for non-smokers exposed to secondhand smoke …”the increased risk associated with exposure to secondhand smoke is in the order of 25%”.

·         Children are at particular risk from secondhand smoke – “the evidence strongly links secondhand smoke with an increased risk of pneumonia and bronchitis, asthma attacks, middle ear disease, decreased lung function and sudden infant death syndrome. It has also been shown that babies born to mothers who come into contact with secondhand smoke have lower birth weights”.

·         “The evidence published since1998 points to an association between secondhand smoke and respiratory symptoms and reduced lung functions in adults”.


The SCOTH report concludes that: “it is evident that no infant, child or adult should be exposed to secondhand smoke … Secondhand smoke represents a substantial public health hazard”.


ASH Director Deborah Arnott commented:


FOREST has no interest whatever in scientific evidence or independent advice. It is paid by the tobacco industry to deny the truth that other people’s tobacco smoke is a risk to your health. It demands a further panel of experts to look at the subject in the hope of delaying Government action. But every time doctors and scientists produce their evidence FOREST simply refuses to accept it. Like the tobacco companies for which it fronts, FOREST is trying to cover the truth in a dense cloud of poisonous smoke. It has no credibility on this issue and its pronouncements do not deserve to be taken seriously.”


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CONTACT:          Ian Willmore (ASH)     020 7739 5902 (w) 07887 641344 (m)