Monday, July 20, 1998 Published at 11:32 GMT 12:32 UK
Don't light up yet
Passive smoking claims were not based on sound evidence, said US court
An American ruling which calls into question evidence of the harmful effects of passive smoking is unlikely to have much immediate impact on cigarette bans, according to experts.
Judge William Osteen of the US District Court in North Carolina ruled on Friday that a 1993 report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made procedural and scientific errors when it declared that passive smoking could cause up to 3,000 lung cancer deaths a year.
The ruling was part of a case brought by tobacco companies who are seeking to get the report declared invalid.
Little immediate effect
But anti-smoking campaigners and the tobacco industry have told the Wall Street Jouranal that the ruling will have little immediate impact on the various US laws banning smoking at work, in restaurants and other enclosed places.
This is because the EPA does not regulate indoor smoking, because local government rather than federal government have imposed many of the smoking bans and because the EPA report is not the only study advocating the dangers of passive smoking.
However, it is one of the most influential. At least one tobacco firm, RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co, told the Journal it was considering taking legal action against smoking bans.
Government lawyers are expected to appeal against the ruling.
White House campaign
The White House is also considering plans to sue the tobacco industry for the healthcare costs of caring for people who have become ill because of smoking.
The plans are likely to come into play if the US government does not vote for broad anti-smoking legislation.