There Is No Tobacco Allergy
Carol Thompson

Tobacco allergy claims are classic junk science. There is no tobacco smoke antigen. And that this is THE reputable scientific opinion can be deduced from the fact that this information comes from a 28-page article, with 227 references, intended to present the "State of the Art" to professionals, in the American Review of Respiratory Disease, the journal of the American Lung Association. (GT O'Connor et alThe role of allergy and nonspecific airway hyperresponsiveness in the pathogenesis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Am Rev Respir Dis 1989;140:225-252). 

"Although many human subjects have a positive skin test reaction to or a specific IgE against antigens extracted from tobacco leaf, only a much smaller number display these forms of response to smoke extract."


". . .antigenically cross-reactive material was found in a number of vegetables, including tomatoes and peppers. Skin test reactivity to tobacco smoke or leaf extract does not appear to be correlated with smoking status, so IgE produced in response to other plant antigens may be cross-reacting with tobacco proteins. There is no firm evidence that allergy to tobacco smoke occurs. . . "

Nor is there an correlation between claimed smoke sensitivity and skin test reactions or IgE antibodies. "None of the serum samples tested contained detectable I E antibodies to smoke extracts" (SB Lehrer et al. IgE antibody response of smokers, nonsmokers, and "smoke-sensitive" persons to tobacco leaf and smoke antigens. Am Rev Respir Dis 1980;121:168-170). "None of the sera tested for IgF...demonstrated significant binding. Similarly, no evidence for IgE antibody to tobacco antigen could be shown by RAST" (McDougall and Gleich. Tobacco allergy - Fact or fancy? (abstract) J Allergy Clin Immunol 1976;57(3): 237), who also found that "no inhibition of RAST binding was seen by pre- incubation of sera with tobacco antigen, suggesting that the minimal binding of IgE to tobacco antigen was nonspecific." 

But the anti-smoking demagogues have encouraged public belief in "tobacco allergy" as a "useful lie" to use against smokers. They apparently believe that if they only repeat their unsupported claims of tobacco "allergy" that everyone will quickly their runny noses and all their other symptoms on tobacco smoke, instead of on the food they eat or other real allergens.  If the demagogues had any genuine concern about this supposed allergy, the least they could do is warn peopIe against tomatoes and pepper. But we all know they don't tell the people about this. 

The same goes for the anti-smokers' attempts to blame "tobacco allergy" for cardiovascular disease (e.g. M Papa et al Autoimmune mechanisms in thrombo- angiitis obliterans (Buerger s disease): The role of tobacco antigen and the major histocompatibility complex. Surgery 1992;111:527-531). In this genre, since tobacco smoke doesn't work, they always resort to using leaf extract, and make their triumphant claims on the basis of minimal and nonspecific binding, with vary a world about tomatoes and pepper.   Few if any avereage people come into contact with concentrated leaf extract!

Another of that ilk made that widely repeated claim that 8,000,000 people are clinically sensitive to tobacco smoke (BM Zussman. Tobacco sensitivity in the allergic population. A specific allergic entity. J Asthma Res 1974;11 (4):159-167). But in a glorious therapeutic breakthrough, he achieved improvement of symptoms in all of his patients, thanks to desensitization with that allergists' great panacea, HOUSE DUST. 

In an internal review of the U.S. EPA's "report" on passive smoking (which was actually written by hand-picked anti-smokers, in violation of federal contracting rules), EPA epidemiologist Dr. Terry Harvey cautioned, "The non-cancer asthma effect must he clarified medically to show effects primarily in a sensitive asthmatic subpopulation having pre-dispositions component-like genetic risks and not displayed as a public health risk to the general, non-predisposed population "  

But due to lack of supporting evidence of harm to this subgroup, in whom it would logically be the easiest to show it, via lung function tests and laboratory-controlled and measured exposures, no such evidence was included in the report. Besides, it was more tactically expedient for the anti-smokers to attempt to incite hysteria in the general public. 

Meanwhile, don't forget that the big picture contradicts everything those demagogues say. After all their smoking restrictions, deaths from asthma should logically have gone down, yet they have risen instead. 

Courtesy of Carol Thompson 08/23/93
Smokers' Rights Action Group
P.O. Box 259575
Madison, WI 53725-9575
Phone: 608-249-4568

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