Tobacco Industry-funded study casts doubt on passive smoking deaths - no surprises there, says ASH.

Friday 16 May 2003

ASH news release:  Embargo: 00:01 Friday 16th May 2003


A study published today in the British Medical Journal casts doubt on the evidence that passive smoking  causes deaths from heart disease and lung cancer.[1] However, an accompanying editorial[2] suggests the authors “may have over emphasised the negative nature of their findings.”  In particular, the study points to a substantially increased risk of death from chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD) caused by secondhand smoke even though the authors try to down play the evidence. The authors also acknowledge that their study findings are consistent with “most of the other individual studies on environmental tobacco smoke” yet claim that the risk of mortality from the diseases caused by secondhand smoke is not proven. However, expert bodies from around the world including the World Health Organisation, have concluded that passive smoking is a cause of lung cancer and heart disease.[3]

Amanda Sandford, Research Manager of the anti-tobacco campaigning group ASH, said:

“The tobacco industry has been desperately tying to disprove the harmful consequences of passive smoking for years.  This paper is just the latest in a long campaign to sow the seeds of doubt about the dangers of breathing in environmental tobacco smoke.  The authors appear to be deliberately downplaying the findings to suit their tobacco paymasters.”   

ASH also expressed concern that the British Medical Journal had published such a biased piece of research.   Sandford commented:

“Questions will inevitably be asked about the decision to publish research conducted by scientists in the pay of the tobacco industry.  This could be very damaging as it will be used by  industry lobbyists to argue against laws to ban smoking in public places and workplaces.  We would urge policy makers not to be swayed by this study but to respect the reputable science that has already shown passive smoking to be a killer.”




Notes and links:

[1]  Enstrom, JE and Kabat, GC. Environmental tobacco smoke and tobacco related mortality in a prospective study of Californians, 1960-98. BMJ  2003; 326:  1057-61

[2]  Davey Smith, G.  Effect of passive smoking on health.  BMJ  2003; 1048 9

[3] Involuntary smoking. Summary of data reported and evaluation (pdf). IARC, 2002. (Full Monograph due to be published June 2003) Reports by the US Environmental Protection Agency, the UK government’s Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health and other government agencies have reached similar conclusions.


Contact: Amanda Sandford  020 7739 5902 (w)  ISDN available