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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 May, 2003, 09:49 GMT 10:49 UK
Is passive smoking a killer?
A furious row over the effects of passive smoking has been sparked by a report in the British Medical Journal.

Researchers discovered that exposure to passive smoking was not significantly associated with death from coronary heart disease or lung cancer although active cigarette smoking was still a strong health risk.

The report has caused controversy as it was part funded by the tobacco industry, but the BMJ claimed funding for the study had proved impossible to obtain from other sources.

Do you agree? Is passive smoking a killer? Would you like to see restrictions on smoking in public places?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

I am a smoker, yet I would have no problem with heavier restrictions on smoking in bars and other public places. After all, it's us smokers who are doing something "unnatural" if you like, something which causes a lot of discomfort to non-smokers.
Tom Burrows, UK

The fuss about passive smoking is ridiculous to say the least. It can be no more harmful than breathing in the fuel fumes of traffic. Generations of my family have been brought up and lived to old age in smoking environments with no effect on their health whatsoever.
Carol Richards, England

I don't know, I am not an expert, and nor is government. But as a smoker, I say surely better to be safe than sorry and have a sensible smoking policy of clean air zones as well as smoking tolerant zones in our public places. Only the truly arrogant and irresponsible smoker would object.
Pete, UK

Where are the rights for people like me?
Catherine, Scotland
In all this debate about lung cancer, people seem to forget a far more common ailment - asthma - which is often aggravated by cigarette smoke. As an asthmatic who is also mildly smoke-allergic, I find socialising rather difficult. I either have the choice to suffer the smoke, or never socialise with friends in the pub. Where are the rights for people like me?
Catherine, Scotland

I am a part-time smoker, my partner is a non smoker. It would be nice if parts of pubs that have areas for non-smokers keep it. When we went into our local pub the other day the sign had been taken down in the non-smoking area because the pub was busy, to allow the smokers more room. How bad is that?
Jan, UK

As a PhD student working with lung cancer patients, I'm shocked that the highly-esteemed BMJ should publish a study that is so flawed in its methodology and blatantly biased in favour of the tobacco industry. This paper should be an object lesson for anyone training in the systematic and rigorous review of scientific literature; just because it gets into a reputable scientific journal doesn't mean it's a good piece of science.
Heather Williams, UK

This is a tough situation here. In America, it seems it would be a natural human right that people would be allowed to smoke. However, according to the constitution, when those rights interfere with another's rights, that is a different story. It's a conflict that has come up in many other debates.
Jessica , USA

I see no harm in banning smoking in public
Philip Heller, USA
I'm a smoker and I try to be a polite one. I ask before I smoke in front of others and don't smoke while others are eating. I'm not a scientist but it seems logical that passive smoke would not be harmful to others - but would be annoying. It takes years for smokers inhaling directly to develop serious health issues - and the idea that passive smoking would do the same seems far fetched. But as it does bother others I see no harm in banning smoking in public - as well as cheap perfume.
Philip Heller, USA

This (extremely unreliable and dubious) data draws us away from the fundamental facts. Passive smoking is unpleasant, antisocial and prevents proper development of children's lungs. We don't need research to prove these things.
David, Glasgow, UK

The recent tobacco ban in NYC has caused a loss of business at bars of 25% or more according to recent surveys. I've seen it myself; bars are empty and eerie. A careful read of studies by the EPA and WHO shows bias and scientific inaccuracies, and no one seems to notice or care that we are being systematically deceived. The jury is still out and public smoking bans are rash and an invasion on personal liberties. Tobacco is, after all, still a legal drug.
Mike, NYC, USA

I was a heavy smoker for 30 years, until a smoking-related blocked leg artery prompted me to give it up. I am very sensitive to tobacco smoke, and find being near smokers very unpleasant. I am very prone to think it could be harmful. There have, sadly, been plenty of instances of industry-funded research where scientists have been instructed to lose unwelcome data. So such research just ain't reliable!
Laurie Whelan, UK

As an ex-smoker, I quite enjoyed the fix I got from breathing in my colleague's smoke this lunchtime, knowing that it is now safe to do so. On the whole though, I would like to be able to go to the non-smoking part of the pub without having to sit with screaming, whining kids. Can't we just ban children from pubs?
Catherine O, UK

All you intolerant people just wait your turn will come. Alcohol, perfume, junk food, SUV's they are all being targeted! THINK ABOUT IT!!!
Miriam, Italy

It doesn't take expensive research to recognise antisocial and unhealthy behaviour
Mark Giles, USA
It doesn't take expensive research to recognize antisocial and unhealthy behaviour. Those of us who do not smoke or who have children know all too well that the habit makes those around them ill, directly or indirectly. It doesn't take expensive research to discover that. When someone asks me if they mind if they smoke, my usual response is "Not at all, do you mind if I throw up?"
Mark Giles, USA

This second hand smoke is just another tool used to lobby against smokers. Funny how government loves taking taxes from those evil smokers while at the same time condemning them.
Bart Williams, USA

This is one area where America leads the rest of the world. It is almost impossible to light up in any public place in the States. The rest of the world needs to follow the US anti-smoking model.
Guy, Netherlands

I walk to work every day and receive a good dosing of motor vehicle exhaust there and back. I notice nobody is proposing that cars are banned from the roads so how come smokers are being singled out?

People that smoke just do not care about the non smokers. The smell gives me headaches that last a day and raises my blood pressure. At least they should respect the non-smoking areas.
Mel, England

My mother smokes and my dad doesn't. He's always coughing on the phone now and he admits it's from being a passive smoker for over fifty years.
Jonathan Granato, USA

Let individual business owners decide for themselves if they want a smoke free establishment or not. Non-smokers would then be able to vote with their pocket book. The same holds true for bar employees. They have the choice to work in a non smoking environment.
Sean Paley, America

Why should I organise my life around the habits of others?
Chris, UK
I find it very hard to believe that passive smoking poses no threat. After a night out in a smoky club I spend the morning coughing up the revolting remains of the night before. It annoys me when people say non-smokers have the choice to stay home or go somewhere else. Why should I organise my life around the habits of others?
Chris, UK

It has been proven that cigarettes contain all sorts of dangerous chemicals that cause cancer and that smoking leads to many fatal ailments. So by what deranged logic can we say that an atmosphere polluted by many smokers is not really a risk to health!!??
Mark Rillands, UK

Common sense should tell these folks that it takes years for a smoker, breathing condensed smoke into his lungs daily, to be at serious risk of a smoking related disease. The hysterical notion that spending an hour in a smoky bar a couple of times a week is a deadly health hazard for non-smokers is just silly.
Dave, USA

As a researcher at Sheffield University, I can attest to the fact that this research is patently nonsense. The data was inadequate - they failed to collect spousal smoking rates.
Munzar, UK

People have as much right to smoke as others have to pure air. The argument about damaging other people's health could be applied to almost every human activity. The best reason of all to live is because it's enjoyable, some people enjoy smoking. This is why it is perverted and wrong to try and stop them beyond pointing out the dangers. The nanny state will stop me smoking today and stop you doing your thing tomorrow. Don't run screaming in protest then, you will have no-one left to argue for freedom.
Michael Harris, Ireland

We will end up with a situation not too dissimilar to prohibition
Mark, England
There have been non-smoking pubs in England and they went out of business. Unless this is approached in a sensible and fair handed way we will end up with a situation not too dissimilar to prohibition in America, with the burden of enforcing unpopular laws added to the already stretched resources of the police.
Mark, England

Does it matter? I gave up smoking years ago, but all I can be sure of is that one day, one way or another, I will die.
Zorba Eisenhower, UK

People who find a ban in pubs and bars difficult to imagine should simply visit California. Bars are still full, and if people absolutely must smoke they can simply step outside, as many do.
Phil, England

Once again the scientists argue over the stats, and the public is none the wiser. Personally, I like the Russian attitude to all this: "If you don't smoke, and don't drink, then you die healthy".
Chris, UK

As a smoker I find it difficult to imagine that a ban in bars and clubs would work. If there were more non-smoking restaurants and bars then people would have the choice if they wanted to sit in a smoky atmosphere or not. Such choice already exists with coffee shops, some allow smoking some don't, so if the same applied to bars and restaurants people would have a choice and not have to be exposed to smoke if they were concerned about the health risks.
Damian, UK

What I dislike the most is that when I go out not only do I return home reeking of cigarette smoke that I do not choose to smell or but also I have to be wary of where smokers wave their cigarettes on the dance floor. It's dangerous and painful being stubbed by cigarettes!
Leigh, UK

If smoking is banned in public places in the UK, then I simply will stop using them
Simon Moore, EU
My personal view is that if passive smoking is no more of a threat than traffic fumes or general urban pollution, none of which anyone seems to be particularly bothered about reducing. I do smoke (although I have about five a day, and always have done, so that's the addiction theory out of the window) and will continue to do so. If smoking is banned in public places in the UK, then I simply will stop using them, and restrict my socialising to time with the much more civilised inhabitants of mainland Europe.
Simon Moore, EU

While I don't doubt for a minute that smoking is bad for one's health, I really can't see that passive smoking poses any great risk. I'll bet the majority of those complaining about the effects of passive smoking think nothing of driving their cars around urban areas polluting the air for the rest of us.
Brad, Spain

I visited Orlando, Florida in March of this year: I spent a few days at Disney and Universal studios, and it was one of the most pleasant experiences of my life, being able to walk about all day without suddenly finding myself in the middle of someone else's cloud of foul-smelling smoke.
Richard, UK

Surely there is a simple solution. Have non-smoking bars and restaurants and smoking bars and restaurants then people can choose where to go. Surely in the 21st century we can be tolerant of all points of view?
Mike Thompson, UK

I've endured years of passive smoking
Peter, UK
As a former waiter in a busy restaurant I've endured years of passive smoking. We only have to look at the case of Roy Castle who died of lung cancer despite never having smoked a cigarette in his life to understand that smoking in public is harmful. The public can decide not to go to smoke-filled bars and restaurants but for the people who work there it's not so easy.
Peter, UK

Non-smokers have a choice. They either put up with smoke in pubs clubs and restaurants or they make the decision not to go to those places. Simple really.
Andy, UK

Andy UK: Once smoking is banned from public places smokers will have a choice. They either put up with clean fragrant pubs, clubs and restaurants or they make the decision to stay at home and kill themselves instead of everyone else. Simple really!
Kelly, UK

There has been a terrible tendency in recent years to blame smoking for everything. But there are many other causes of heart attacks, cancer and strokes. I sincerely do not believe that passive smoking increases the risk of heart attack - this is from someone who gave up smoking herself four years ago after a heart attack!
Margaret Wilson, Scotland

Smokers should not be allowed to pollute the air in confined spaces
Duncan McDonald, London, UK
Smokers demand the right to be able to smoke; fair enough that is their right and it's their health. I demand the right as a non-smoker to not passively smoke, this is my right which is just as valid but it is being ignored with a detrimental affect on my health. Smokers should not be allowed to pollute the air in confined spaces where other people are forced to suffer from their selfish habit.
Duncan McDonald, London, UK

Many municipalities in Ontario have either banned, or are in the process of banning smoking, in all public places. While many of us enjoy going for a drink in a smoke free atmosphere it has to be a concern if the smokers spend more time smoking at home in front of their children. Adults can make choices, most kids cannot so think twice before jumping on the ban smoking bandwagon.
Derrick Greetham, Canada

Whether to allow smoking should be up to individual bar and restaurant owners. In New York bars the ban has caused a loss of business, threatening insolvency. That's the law of unintended consequences in action.
John, UK

I certainly don't need PC people harping on about it!
Alan, Windsor, UK

Being a smoker, I accept that I am a minority, and would like to see more bans in clubs and bars. I don't particularly like the smell of stale smoke in buildings or on my clothes, but I certainly don't need PC people harping on about it!
Alan, Windsor, UK

I was working as a computer network administrator a few years ago when a no-smoking rule was brought in. After it was implemented, the insides of machines, which had previously always been filthy, became quite clean. That taught me all I needed to know about cigarettes.
Alex Swanson, UK

I don't know about passive smoking but since they banned it from the workplace you can spot the smokers instantly - horrible breath.
Gerry, UK

Whether it's a killer or not, it makes my clothes and hair stink so should be banned in public regardless of this report.
Simon, UK

Tobacco smoke contains toxins and carcinogens - no-one doubts that. So breathing it in must be harmful to some degree. This is just a debate about statistical significance isn't it? People should not have to breathe in other peoples toxins, it's that simple.
Jon Cooper, UK

Row over passive smoking effect
15 May 03  |  Health

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