Tobacco firms misled public, says WHO

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The Independent Online
THE World Health Organisation stepped into the war of words over its new report on passive smoking yesterday by accusing the tobacco industry of staging a "wholly misleading" publicity stunt.

Professor Karol Sikora, chief of the WHO's cancer programme, said cigarette company spindoctors had deliberately misinformed the public through leaks to the media.

A row broke out at the weekend between the tobacco industry and anti- smoking campaigners over claims that passive smoking was not linked to lung cancer. The tobacco group BAT Industries highlighted a confidential report from a WHO research group that had studied cancer cases in seven countries. It was suggested that the WHO report had been suppressed because the findings did not support the politically correct anti-smoking message.

Anti-smoking groups such as cancer charities, Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) and the British Medical Association hit back, saying the industry was merely attempting to sabotage tomorrow's national No Smoking Day.

Yesterday, the WHO came out in defence of the anti-smoking groups. Professor Sikora said a "wholly misleading interpretation" of the scientific data had been put into the public domain by the tobacco companies. He said the 10-year European multi-centre case control study, co-ordinated by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, found a relationship between lung cancer and passive smoking. The research did not state there was no risk, as had been reported.