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Editor,—In the early summer of 1996, Philip Morris Europe launched a European campaign: “Secondhand smoke in perspective” to counter the growing public concern about the health effects of environmental tobacco smoke (ETS). In recent years, several governments in Europe had banned or restricted smoking in public places and in workplaces.1 Philip Morris wanted to put a stop to these regulations by demonstrating that all concerns about ETS were unfounded.
Advertisements appeared in the main Dutch newspapers. These tried to place the relative risk of lung cancer from living with a smoking spouse in the context of risks associated with other, everyday activities. According to Philip Morris, scientific data demonstrate that ETS does not present a meaningful health risk to non-smokers; the relative risks of lung cancer from passive smoking are lower than the risks of serious diseases from drinking chlorinated tapwater, or eating a biscuit or a pepper. The campaign was based on a report of a European Working Group,2 funded by Philip Morris, BAT, and Rothmans. The advertisements cited the relative risk of ETS for lung cancer produced by the Environmental Protection …