Tobacco barons refuse to back down in passive smoking battle

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THE health lobby was delighted by the report linking passive smoking and lung cancer; the tobacco industry stuck to its guns that there was no link established. Who is right?

The report is the latest in a long line that have warned that breathing someone else's smoke can cause lung cancer writes Glenda Cooper, Social Affairs Correspondent and and drew Yates.

During the 1980s a number of comprehensive reviews of the effects of passive smoking were published, culminating in a major review by the US Environmental Protection Agency in 1993 which classified Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) as a class A carcinogen.

Last November the British Medical Journal carried an analysis of 37 published epidemiological studies looking at more than 4000 cases.

It concluded that the risk of lung cancer in life-long non-smokers who lived with a smoker was 24 per cent, and that tobacco-specific carcinogens in the blood of non-smokers provided clear evidence of this.

While the evidence linking passive smoking and lung cancer is far weaker than that of active smoking, the cumulative evidence points that way.

The tobacco industry refuse to accept these findings saying that the relative risks are not significant.

The Tobacco Manufactures' Association claimed yesterday that of 60 studies they had looked at 80 per cent showed no significantly statistical increase. Martin Broughton, chief executive of BAT, said yesterday that he was convinced that passive smoking was not a killer.

"There have been four reports into passive smoking so far and none of them has been statistically conclusive," he said.

"One even suggested that passive smoking actually reduced the risk of death."

The tobacco companies claim a World Health Organisation paper, leaked at the weekend, proved there was no link between passive smoking and lung cancer.

The WHO say BAT have misinterpreted the data and there was actually an estimated 16 per cent increased of lung cancer among non-smoking spouses of smokers and the British Medical Association accused the tobacco industry of "desperate disinformation".