Medicine And The Media Medicine and the media

The hot air on passive smoking

BMJ 1998; 316 doi: (Published 21 March 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;316:945
  1. Simon Chapman
  1. associate professor, department of public health and community medicine University of Sydney, Australia

    News p 881

    Simon Chapman examines the recent newspaper reports which stated that passive smoking does not cause cancer and asks where the spin is coming from

    “The truth is rarely pure, and never simple,” railed the editorial writer from the Sunday Telegraph on 8 March, forgetting to acknowledge Oscar Wilde. Oh yes, they were on to a good one. The spin doctors down at British American Tobacco (BAT) had passed the newspaper an exclusive: “Passive smoking doesn't cause cancer—official.”

    According to the piece, the World Health Organisation's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) had discovered that environmental tobacco smoke was just epidemiological hot air. But worse still, the infamous nanny factory, “whose institutional raison d'etre is to interfere as widely as possible in the day to day life of as many people as possible,” had been caught by BAT trying to withhold this embarrassing stuff from us all, slipping it discreetly into a few paragraphs in their biennial report. The Sunday Times picked up the story from an …

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