Why the tobacco industry fears the passive smoking issue

Int J Health Serv. 1990;20(3):417-27. doi: 10.2190/YYKC-PGTC-VUMM-3A5P.


The tobacco industry has identified the passive smoking issue as the single most important problem confronting its economic future. During the 1980s, the industry has been engaged in an elaborate and expensive international campaign seeking to refute the evidence against passive smoking's effects on health and to position the issue as one essentially concerned with civil liberties and smokers' "rights." There are three main reasons for the industry's concern: first, the passive smoking issue allows a widening of the definition of smoking beyond its discussion as a personal habit, legitimizing it as a social problem; second, successful cases of litigation against employers by workers with histories of chronic exposure to environmental tobacco smoke have created an industrial climate of concern leading to workplace smoking restrictions and bans, and third, the proliferation of smoking restrictions reduces smoking opportunities and thus reduces total cigarette consumption and hence financial returns to the industry. Based on the results of a large Australian study of a workplace smoking ban, an estimated 654.88 million cigarettes with a retail value of $A6,549 thousand would be forgone annually in Australia alone if 50 percent of white-collar worksites were to ban smoking. Finally, the passive smoking issue can be considered a Trojan horse to its less discussed effects: the reduced morbidity and mortality likely to result in smokers from the significant reductions in smoking frequency that occur with the proliferation of smoking restrictions introduced in the name of concern for the health of nonsmokers.

MeSH terms

  • Commerce / economics*
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Humans
  • Occupational Health Services
  • Plants, Toxic*
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / economics*
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / prevention & control
  • Tobacco*


  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution