Smoking in aeroplanes

BMJ 1994; 309 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.309.6947.131a (Published 09 July 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;309:131
  1. A J Hedley
  1. Head of department Department of Community Medicine and Unit for Behavioural Sciences, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.

    EDITOR,—Unfortunately, Richard Harding's editorial on the many factors related to health and comfort in passenger aircraft1 has been used by the tobacco industry to support its campaign, in the daily press in Hong Kong, against the nonsmoking flights recently introduced by Cathay Pacific and other airlines.1 The key paper quoted in the editorial, by Crawford and Holcomb, argues that environmental factors other than tobacco smoke may cause problems such as headaches and eye, nose, and throat symptoms.2 This is hardly the only issue related to environmental tobacco smoke in aircraft, but it is perhaps not surprising that the article made such claims, and readers may wish to consider the article's origins when assessing the evidence.

    Both of the authors are well known as supporters of the tobacco industry in Australia and the United States. Larry Holcomb admits to being a consultant to the tobacco industry and has appeared regularly for it in the United States and other parts of the world. His advocacy for a relaxation of bans on smoking in aircraft has also been used by the industry in Denmark and Finland. In Hong Kong, in May 1992, he appeared as an “expert on environmental tobacco smoke” at a seminar held by the tobacco industry for the media, from which academic and other public health staff were excluded. Later, on a phone in programme on Radio Hong Kong, he attempted to refute the evidence for the effects of environmental tobacco smoke on the respiratory health of children.


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