WHO/IARC Study on Secondhand Smoke


In 1998, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) released a study on the health effects of secondhand smoke exposure. The tobacco industry immediately began to claim that the study showed no link between secondhand smoke and lung cancer. The WHO issued a press release refuting this industry lie. Despite this, the industry and its allies continues to cite this study to cast doubt on the science of secondhand smoke, and to oppose local clean indoor air ordinance.

Previously secret tobacco industry internal documents show that the industry was deeply concerned about the effect this study would have. One internal document listed four objectives regarding the IARC study: "Delay the progress and/or release of the study; Affect the wording of its conclusions and official statement of results; Neutralize possible negative results of the study, particularly as a regulatory tool; Counteract the potential impact of the study on government policy, public opinion, and actions by private employers and proprietors."

The memo went on to list actions to take in support of these objectives, including: establishing a link with the new IARC director; developing scientific teams to contact those involved in the IARC research in each country; assessing the possibility of canceling or preempting the study after contacting government officials in 16 IARC donor countries; affecting the conclusions or wording of the study; preparing a critique of the study's methodology; developing pre- and post-release lobbying plans; and identifying potential third party allies such as trade associations and labor unions. [IARC epidemiological study on lung cancer and ETS, Philip Morris, Bates Nos. 2501341817 - 2501341823]

Please click here for more information on the industry's attempts to subvert this and other studies on the health hazards of secondhand smoke.