Passive smoking is major threat

BMJ 1998; 316 doi: (Published 03 January 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;316:7
  1. Rory Watson
  1. Brussels

    Passive smoking causes the same main detrimental health effects as active smoking and is responsible for the death of over 22000 people each year in the European Union, according to a new authoritative study funded by the European Commission.

    The research, carried out by a group of independent experts under the French Comité National Contre le Tabagisme, warned that about 80% of Europeans over 15 years of age are exposed to environmental tobacco smoke and inhale the equivalent of one or more actively smoked cigarettes a day.

    The stark conclusion from the experts' work is that passive smoking is a major threat to public health in Europe, and the panel strongly urged governments of the European Union to take comprehensive measures to protect non-smokers. They recommend that smoking should be tolerated only in physically separated and independently ventilated areas, and they argue that the ultimate objective should be a total ban on smoking in all indoor public places. Such a measure, they maintain, would give non-smokers maximum protection.

    Their findings indicate that passive smoking increases the risk of lung cancer and, as a result, leads to the death from the disease of an estimated 2000 non-smokers each year. The report, Passive Smoking, The Health Impact, suggests that passive smoking, which is also a risk factor for acute and chronic respiratory disease, middle ear infection, and decreased lung function in infants, children, and adolescents, kills a further 20000 people annually from cardiovascular disease.

    The report, which is part of the European Commission's anticancer programme, followed what the committee chairman, Gérard Dubois, termed “a whole misinformation campaign” by the tobacco industry, which culminated in a controversial campaign from Philip Morris in 1996 claiming that passive smoking was no more dangerous than certain daily habits such as eating biscuits.

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