Researchers Claim Tobacco Attack
LONDON (AP) - A World Health Organization study investigating the effects of secondhand smoke was subjected to a campaign by the tobacco industry, which tried to ``subvert the process of science,'' researchers claim.
An article published this week in The Lancet medical journal said cigarette makers - worried the study could prompt strict anti-smoking laws in Europe - obtained the results early and launched a sophisticated ``misinformation'' campaign before the study was published.
The Lancet article, written by scientists from the University of California at San Francisco, said cigarette companies tried to discredit the U.N. World Health Organization study and shape interpretation of its findings.
David Greenberg, senior vice president at Philip Morris International, acknowledged the industry campaign, but said there was nothing unusual about it.
``We were concerned that bad science would lead to bad policies,'' he said. ``We had a lot of technical points to make and, like any company, we tried to make them.''
The 10-year study, conducted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an arm of the WHO, found that exposure to passive smoke increased the risk of lung cancer by 16 percent.
But the results were not statistically significant, which means there weren't enough people in the study to rule out the possibility that the correlation was a fluke.
The study was published in October 1998 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
But in March of that year, two British newspapers ran stories alleging the agency had suppressed the results because they showed no lung cancer risk from passive smoking.
``Tobacco took this and presented it as saying there's no evidence of risk,'' said Stanton Glantz, a professor of medicine at UCSF. ``It's a perversion of the whole process of science.''
Glantz cited a 1993 Philip Morris document that mentioned objectives including delaying the progress and/or release of the study, affecting the wording of its conclusions and neutralizing possible negative results of the study.
He claimed Philip Morris coordinated the industry worldwide to counteract the study and that the company used corporate spies to glean information from the research agency about its study.
Greenberg acknowledged that the industry was combative in the way it fought the study and said the campaign was conducted quite openly.
``That was a fighting mentality, rather than a cooperative one,'' he said.