Tob Control 13:i20-i29 doi:10.1136/tc.2003.004721
  • Research paper

A tobacco industry study of airline cabin air quality: dropping inconvenient findings

  1. K Neilsen,
  2. S A Glantz
  1. Kalmanovitz Library and Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Stanton A Glantz, PhD
 Box 1390, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143-1390, USA;


    Objective: To examine an industry funded and controlled study of in flight air quality (IFAQ).

    Methods: Systematic search of internal tobacco industry documents available on the internet and at the British American Tobacco Guildford Depository.

    Results: Individuals from several tobacco industry companies, led by Philip Morris, designed, funded, conducted, and controlled the presentation of results of a study of IFAQ for the Scandinavian airline SAS in 1988 while attempting to minimise the appearance of industry control. Industry lawyers and scientists deleted results unfavourable to the industry’s position from the study before delivering it to the airline. The published version of the study further downplayed the results, particularly with regard to respirable suspended particulates. The study ignored the health implications of the results and instead promoted the industry position that ventilation could solve problems posed by secondhand smoke.

    Conclusions: Sponsoring IFAQ studies was one of several tactics the tobacco industry employed in attempts to reverse or delay implementation of in-flight smoking restrictions. As a result, airline patrons and employees, particularly flight attendants, continued to be exposed to pollution from secondhand smoke, especially particulates, which the industry’s own consultants had noted exceeded international standards. This case adds to the growing body of evidence that scientific studies associated with the tobacco industry cannot be taken at face value.


    • * This conclusion is surprising based on the actual results of the survey. While 7% of customers said that they had considered alternative travel arrangements because of the smoke-free policy, 5% said that they had avoided air travel because of the secondhand smoke. This difference is well within the margin of error associated with the survey. A more accurate conclusion would have been that the policy was having no effect on revenue.

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