'Prove passive smoking is a killer'
A smokers' lobby group has challenged England's chief medical officer to prove beyond doubt that passive smoking is responsible for thousands of deaths.
Forest called on Sir Liam Donaldson to prove second-hand smoke kills hundreds, if not thousands, of people in the UK each year.
The group, publishing its report Smoking Out The Truth: A Challenge to the Chief Medical Officer, also called on Health Secretary John Reid to set up an independent panel of experts to assess the scientific evidence on passive smoking.
But anti-smoking campaigners condemned Forest's claims on passive smoking as "nonsense"
Forest president Lord Harris of High Cross said the smoking bans being proposed were based on scientific studies that had failed "spectacularly" to establish any significant link between passive smoking and ill health.
Launching the report at the House of Lords, Lord Harris said: "Proposals to ban smoking in all public places would be understandable if they were based on incontrovertible scientific evidence of harm to others. But this is very far from the truth.
"The truth is that the dozens of studies conducted around the world over the past 25 years fail spectacularly to yield any reliably stable, uniform or statistically significant link between lifetime exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and lung cancer in non-smokers."
Lord Harris said anti-smoking groups displayed "a cavalier contempt for the serious discipline of epidemiology which studies the relative risks of various diseases with a single identifiable cause".
Lord Harris said in particular, he was challenging Sir Liam to face up to several key questions.
Last week figures published in the British Medical Journal claimed that passive smoking in the home or workplace killed at least 30 people a day in the UK. The figures - much higher than previous estimates - showed that second-hand smoke was thought to be responsible for more than 11,000 deaths a year, from illnesses such as lung cancer and heart disease.