Cancer researchers hit tobacco industry campaign
LONDON, April 7 (Reuters) - U.S. researchers accused the tobacco industry of Friday of going to ``unprecedented'' lengths to discredit the largest European study on passive smoking.
Even before the 10-year study by the International Agency for Research in Cancer (IARC) was published, tobacco executives had launched an expensive misinformation campaign against it, the researchers said.
``The extent of tobacco industry money and effort spent to discredit a single study is unprecedented,'' said Professor Stanton Glantz of the Institute for Health Policy Studies at the University of California in San Francisco.
While the United States instituted new regulations to protect the public from the dangers of passive smoking, European nations were largely unaffected.
In a report in The Lancet Medical, Glantz and medical student Elisa Ong said the tobacco giants feared the IARC report launched in 1988 would spark similar changes in Europe.
``Tobacco industry strategists were apparently trying to head off the possibility of sentiment growing for similar restrictions in their European markets, so they hit this report with all they had,'' Glantz added in a statement.
PHILIP MORRIS SPEAR-HEADED ATTACK
Glantz and Ong analysed company documents released during tobacco litigation in Minnesota and interviewed investigators working for the IARC, the research arm of the World Health Organisation.
They said tobacco giant Philip Morris (NYSE:MO - news) spearheaded an inter-industry strategy to neutralise IARC's work.
Philip Morris said that on its website (www.philipmorris.com) it acknowledged that many scientists and regulators had concluded that ``environmental tobacco smoke'' (ETS) posed a health risk to non-smokers.
``Far from trying in any way to undermine the IARC's report on ETS, we are actively disseminating it. Our site includes a direct link to -- and no criticism of -- an abstract of the IARC study as well as many other studies on the subject,'' a Philip Morris statement said.
A spokesman for the Tobacco Manufacturers' Association told Reuters that as a whole the research does not support the health risks that are claimed by the anti-smoking lobby.
``If we are accused of robustly defending our position, we plead guilty,'' said spokesman John Carlisle.
The researchers claimed the heart of the strategy was to shape public opinion by manipulating the media and the public.
``The scientific strategy attempted to undercut IARC's research and to develop industry-directed research to counter the anticipated findings,'' they said in the Lancet report.
``The ARC study cost $2 million over 10 years; Philip Morris planned to spend $2 million in one year alone and up to $4 million on research,'' Glantz and Ong added.
The IARC found a 16 percent increase in risk in lung cancer among non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke, which is consistent with other studies.
The researchers claim the tobacco industry provided selected British newspapers with misinformation before the study was published, saying it had found no increased risk.
``Public attention has been focused on lung cancer, but it is important to remember that heart disease, not lung cancer, kills most passive smokers,'' the researchers said in the study.
They also warned that second-hand smoke has been linked to asthma in children, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), or cot death, and recent research has suggested breast cancer could be another possible health problem.