New research into passive smoking effectively clears pubs of any blame for customers' health problems.
The study, published in the British Medical Journal, claims the link between passive smoking and heart disease and lung cancer may be considerably weaker than is generally believed, although it found active smokers are still at risk.
A review of evidence from a long-term study in California concentrated on 35,500 people who had never smoked, but who had a spouse who did.
It found that there was no increased health risk from breathing in second-hand smoke.
As The Publican went to press, the industry's Charter Group was waiting for a response from the Department of Health on the outcome of its report on smoking in UK pubs.
The report proves that the industry has met government targets of 50 per cent compliance by 2003.
It is hoped that the government will reject an option of a ban of smoking in pubs in favour of supporting self-regulation in the industry, although fresh targets are likely to be set.
Commenting on the Californian study, head of the group Nick Bish said: "It's an interesting challenge to the general opinion about passive smoking which is putting the trade under so much pressure.
"We really do believe that focusing on staff and customer needs in an active way is more constructive than comparing the merits of various bits of research."Anti-tobacco group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) refuted the research.
Research manager Amanda Sandford said: "The tobacco industry has been desperately trying to disprove the harmful consequences of passive smoking for years.
"This paper is just the latest in a long campaign to sow the seeds of doubt about the dangers of breathing in environmental tobacco smoke.
"The authors appear to be deliberately downplaying the findings to suit their tobacco paymasters."
John Sands, executive chairman of Pubmaster, called for more support of the Smoking Charter. He said: "Our pubs are 98 per cent Charter compliant and the industry needs to ensure all pubs sign up."