Leading cancer experts have hit out at the tobacco industry for claims that a new study proves that passive smoking does not cause cancer.
Tobacco group BAT Industries highlighted a confidential report by the World Health Organisation which studied cancer cases in seven countries.
But cancer experts are now anxious that the tobacco industry's claims do not lull the public into a false sense of security about the risks of contracting cancer from secondary smoking.
Their concern stems from cases such as that of Roy Castle, the jazz musician and television presenter who died from lung cancer in 1994.
He claimed that he contracted the disease from years of inhaling smoke while performing in pubs and clubs.
Professor Gordon McVie, one of the country's leading cancer experts and the Director General of the Cancer Research Campaign, said that BAT Industries' interpretation of the WHO's Biennial Report was "highly misleading" and was probably timed to act as acounter-offensive to Wednesday's National No Smoking Day.
Mr McVie, who has seen the report, said: "The tobacco industry is suggesting that the findings show there is no risk of contracting lung cancer from passive smoking but I have seen the report and the figures of relative risk given are bang in line with the last ten passive smoking studies.
"The weight of the statistics show that there is more likely to be an effect than not to be an effect, the risk is a small one but the evidence certainly does not prove that no risk is present."
The study was one of the largest of its kind ever performed in Europe and compared 650 lung cancer patients with 1,542 healthy people.
It looked at people who were married to smokers, worked with smokers, both worked and were married to smokers, and those who grew up with smokers.
No-one at the WHO headquarters in Geneva was available for comment yesterday but one of the report's authors was said to be "very angry" by BAT's interpretation of his findings. …