Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Environmental tobacco smoke and tobacco related mortality in a prospective study of Californians, 1960-98

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: (Published 15 May 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:1057

Rapid Response:

Industry affiliation and the "rotten science"

Having spent a lot of interesting time studying the scientific litterature on passive smoking - thanks to Legacy - it seems to me as if cause and effect has been turned upside down in regard to the the question of industry affiliation in this research area.

Studies and articles written by authors with affiliation to the tobacco industry do not reach their conclusions as a "result" of their affiliation with the industry, as the Bero & Barnes paper suggests (1). This suggestion, which is a widespread belief in the anti-tobacco establishment, probably rests on small knowledge about how private, free-enterprise businesses operate.

In fact the truth seems to lie in the reverse direction: It is not possible for these authors to have a scientific paper funded by government bodies or health agencies, since a serious anti-tobacco dogma exists in these offices. Thus, authors with differing opinions only have the tobacco industry to turn to, if they want their papers funded.

This explains the outcome of the Bero & Barnes paper quite nicely. The mechanism is explained in depth in papers by several authors, among them psychology professor Bernhardt Liebermann (2), professor of economics, Michael L. Marlow (3), and Enstrom & Kabat themselves (4, 5).

It would be interesting if someone did the exact opposite study, than that of Bero & Barnes: - A review of all the passive smoking studies, where the reviewers were blinded to the introductions and the conclusions of the study papers - leaving the reviewers only with the study methods and the results - the tables.

Such a review would finally make clear - no matter what funding source - that more than 80% of the passive smoking studies do not show any significant risk. And that almost all of the studies show no dose-respond trends.

Citing a great, late epidemiologist, Dr. Alvan Feinstein, who died in 2001: "Passive smoking is a rotten science ..." (6)

Disclaimer: I run a private business not related to tobacco. My private blog is tobacco related, though: Klaus K blog


1. Deborah Barnes & Lisa Bero: Why Review Articles on the Health Effects of Passive Smoking Reach Different Conclusions JAMA, 1998.

2. Bernhardt Liebermann: The social construction of a health menace. A cautionary tale. 1993

3. Michael L. Marlow: Honestly, Who Else Would Fund Such Research? Econ Journal Watch, 2008

4. James E. Enstrom: Defending legitimate epidemiologic research: Combating Lysenko Pseudoscience. Epidemiologic Perspectives & Innovations, 2007

5. Geoffrey C. Kabat: Hyping Health Risks, 2008

6. Alvan Feinstein: Critique - Justice, Science, and the Bad Guys. Toxicologic Pathology, 1992

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

05 December 2009
Klaus K
Non-tobacco business owner
Denmark, Europe