Passive Smoking

Research Massaged To Push Anti-Smoking Recommendations

April 20, 1997

Report: Research massaged to push anti-smoking recommendations

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) - Australia's principal medical advisory body massaged research results to suit recommendations to ban smoking in public places, an Australian news agency reported Sunday.

The Australian Associated Press said it has obtained documents that indicate a working group of the National Health and Medical Research Council deleted research results which did not suit its recommendations.

The working party was established in 1993 to review scientific evidence linking passive smoking to disease, and to make recommendations for health care.

It recommended a smoking ban in shops, offices, malls, hotels, foyers, elevators and on all public transport.

The NHMRC report was, however, edited to delete findings inconsistent with the recommendations, the AAP said.

In any case, the report did not become public as it was suppressed by a federal court in January this year. The court said the NHMRC had failed to discharge its statutory duty of public consultation and failed to give genuine consideration to submissions in preparing the report.

Officials at the NHMRC were not available for comment. The AAP said it also contacted the NHMRC, but did not elicit any reaction.

The AAP said working party member Simon Chapman, an associate professor at the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine at Sydney University, expressed concern about how statistics in the report did not match its recommendations.

Chapman also heads an anti-smoking lobby group.

In a letter to members of the working party, he expressed concern that tables in a draft report did not show a high death rate from passive smoking.

Commenting on the tables' figures, Chapman wrote: "Journalists looking at that table (or being directed to it by the industry) will be hard pressed to write anything other than 'Official: passive smoking cleared -- no lung cancer.' "

"Much of your report recommends tightening restrictions on passive smoking . . . surely with your calculations being so low, these recommendations are way over the top?" Chapman wrote.

His concerns were, however, not mentioned in the draft report, nor did the final report contain the contentious table of data, the AAP said.

Chapman subsequently told the AAP that the changes were made to simplify complex medical statistics for the general public.

He said the contentious table was dropped from the report at an early stage because there were other statistics available that illustrated more strongly the dangers of passive smoking.

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