BIG TOBACCO: Industry Tried to Thwart U.N. Study
World Health Organization researchers have alleged that the tobacco industry attempted to "subvert the process of science" when it tried to discredit a study examining the effects of secondhand smoke. According to an article in last week's The Lancet, tobacco producers -- "worried the study could prompt strict antismoking laws in Europe" -- obtained a copy of the results early and launched a "sophisticated 'misinformation' campaign" before it was published. The 10-year study was conducted by the University of California-San Francisco and the United Nations and was published in the October 1998 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. It found that exposure to secondhand smoke increased the risk of lung cancer by 16%. But because there were not enough participants, the results were "not statistically significant." After two British newspapers reported the WHO had "suppressed the results because they showed no lung cancer risk from passive smoking," the tobacco industry jumped on the information. Stanton Glantz, professor of medicine at UCSF, said, "Tobacco took this [statement] and presented it as saying there's no evidence of risk. It's a perversion of the whole process of science."
Glantz cited a 1993 Philip Morris document that lists company objectives regarding the study, 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 argued the company worked with international industries to dispute the study and hired corporate spies to gather information about the research. David Greenberg, senior VP at Philip Morris International, acknowledged the industry's campaign but said it was not unusual. He said, "We were concerned that bad science would lead to bad policies. We had a lot of technical points to make and, like any company, we tried to make them" (Ross, AP/Anchorage Daily News, 4/6).