Letters Passive smoking

Summary of rapid responses

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.327.7413.505 (Published 28 August 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:505
  1. Alison Tonks, associate editor
  1. BMJ

    Editor–More than 140 readers responded to Enstrom and Kabat's paper and Davey Smith's editorial.1 2 Some of the passion and most of the science is captured in the letters above. What follows is a necessarily brief overview of the remaining ones. The debate started with some orthodox critical comment on the paper: the analysis underestimated the risk to passive smokers, was underpowered, distorted, poorly reported, placed out of context, or just plain wrong. The two main contentions were that a smoking spouse is a poor proxy for passive smoking (because everyone smoked in the 1950s, so people with non-smoking spouses were still exposed at work), and that many quitters are misclassified as smokers. Both would reduce the difference in mortality between exposed and non-exposed groups. In general, the criticisms were poorly substantiated; only four letters (3%) referred to actual data in the paper.

    The discussions then widened to a number of more or less polite exchanges starting with the evils …

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