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Second hand smoke and risk assessment: what was in it for the tobacco industry?
  1. Norbert Hirschhorna,
  2. Stella Aguinaga Bialousb
  1. aNew Haven, Connecticut, USA, bUniversity of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA
  1. Norbert Hirschhorn, 1044 Chapel Street, #502, New Haven CT 06510, USAbertzpoet{at}


OBJECTIVE To describe how the tobacco industry attempted to trivialise the health risks of second hand smoke (SHS) by both questioning the science of risk assessment of low dose exposure to other environmental toxins, and by comparing SHS to such substances about which debate might still exist.

METHODS Analysis of tobacco industry documents made public as part of the settlement of litigation in the USA (Minnesota trial and the Master Settlement Agreement) and available on the internet. Search terms included: risk assessment, low dose exposure, and the names of key players and organisations.

RESULTS/CONCLUSION The tobacco industry developed a well coordinated, multi-pronged strategy to create doubt about research on exposure to SHS by trying to link it to the broader discussion of risk assessment of low doses of a number of toxins whose disease burden may still be a matter of scientific debate, thus trying to make SHS their equivalent; and by attempting, through third party organisations and persons, to impugn the agencies using risk assessment to establish SHS as a hazard.

  • tobacco industry
  • risk assessment
  • environmental tobacco smoke
  • ETS
  • second hand smoke
  • SHS

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