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Sunday, March 8, 1998 Published at 22:24 GMT


Anger over passive smoking claims
image: [ A difference of opinion over the effects of passive smoking ]
A difference of opinion over the effects of passive smoking

Leading cancer experts and campaigners have accused the tobacco industry of distorting health figures to claim passive smoking does not cause the disease.

The widow of TV presenter Roy Castle, who died of lung cancer, told the BBC she was "surprised and confused" by conclusions drawn by the industry from a World Health Organisation study.

Roy Castle's widow, Fiona, talks to BBC News 24 (0'26")
She was supported by cancer experts, who allege the tobacco group BAT is trying to divert attention from the publication of a new government report into passive smoking.

BAT says that a confidential WHO report studying cancer in seven countries failed to establish a meaningful increase in lung cancer risk to non-smokers exposed to environmental tobacco smoke.

The WHO study was one of the largest ever performed in Europe and compared 650 lung cancer patients with 1,542 healthy people.

[ image: Fiona Castle is angry about the tobacco industry's claims]
Fiona Castle is angry about the tobacco industry's claims
It looked at people who were married to smokers, worked with smokers, both worked and were married to smokers, and those who grew up with smokers.

The study is understood to be awaiting publication in a scientific journal.

Fiona Castle said: "I'm a bit surprised and confused and possibly a bit disappointed.

"There's been such a lobby to try and educate young people not to take up the habit of smoking and I think this will be a knock where people say, 'Oh, it doesn't really matter'."

Her husband believed his cancer was caused from inhaling cigarette smoke during a career spent performing in smoky clubs.

Dr Chris Proctor, Head of Science for BAT Industries, claims that the study showed the overall relative risk for exposure fell within a range which made it "non-significant." He said: "The study failed to find a statistically valid link."

He denied BAT had made the claims to divert attention from publication of the British Government's Scientific Committee on Smoking and Health report into the hazards of passive smoking.

But Professor Gordon McVie, Director General of the Cancer Research Campaign, said BAT Industries' interpretation of the WHO research was "highly misleading".

He said: "The tobacco industry is suggesting that the findings show that there is no risk of contracting lung cancer from passive smoking.

"The weight of the statistics show that there is more likely to be an effect than not to be an effect. The risk is a small one but the evidence certainly does not prove that no risk is present."

Clive Bates, from Action on Smoking and Health, said: "The tobacco industry knows the government is going to be releasing evidence on passive smoking and they know it's going to be bad for them. This is a way of getting their retaliation in first."


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