Peter Lee

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Peter N. Lee is a statistician and long-term consultant to the tobacco industry.1


Lee worked until 1979 for the Tobacco Research Council, after which he became a consultant. He has been frequently funded by tobacco companies, undermining scientific studies linking health risks to tobacco use.
He started his own consultancy business in 1984. From 1984 to 1989, Lee was funded by British American Tobacco (BAT) for cohort analysis of trends in smoking-related diseases. 2
In 1991, Lee undertook some work for the Tobacco Advisory Council and BAT to discredit scientific evidence on Environmental Tobacco Smoke(ETS).345
Sharon Boyse, BAT’s main scientific adviser in the UK, referred to Lee in 1991, in response to a proposal to commission Lee as an expert on the proposed EEC health warnings 6 ”Peter Lee is indeed an expert on epidemiology and statistics and again has been a consultant to BAT for a number of years. However, he is inclined to be incomprehensible to non-experts and when asked will say that he definitely believes that smoking causes lung cancer. Definitely not appropriate in this regard.”
Furthermore, Boyse went on to say that “It would be disastrous to get the wrong person on the wrong subject in such a situation” , highlighting that BAT had a pool of possible consultants and was very careful in choosing the ‘right’ consultant for the ‘right’ subject area.

“Undermining WHO”

In July 2000, a committee of health experts examined the strategies by tobacco companies to undermine tobacco control activities at the World Health Organisation. One of the strategies was a multi-million dollar tobacco industry campaign to undermine a large-scale epidemiological study on the relationship between ETS and lung cancer, which had been published in the Lancet and carried out by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an agency established under the auspices of the WHO.
Peter Lee was involved in this campaign. The report detailed how:

Although some of the studies and reviews planned by the tobacco companies may have had legitimate explorations of potential flaws in the IARC study, others may have had a preconceived goal of proving ETS generally safe. A report to Philip Morris from Peter Lee, a long-time industry consultant, suggested that it would be useful to publish papers that emphasise the role of factors other than ETS in the development of cancer. Citing two published papers on the relationship of dietary fat and vegetable consumption to cancer, which Lee acknowledged were flawed, Lee suggested using them to create the appearance that ETS was at best a minor cause of cancer … The tobacco company-funded studies were to be published and ‘marketed’ through third parties”.7

Recent Work

In 2010, Lee published a report,8 funded by the industry, claiming that there is no strong epidemiological support that exposure to ETS causes heart disease in non-smokers.
His 2011 study,Summary of the epidemiological evidence relating snus to health, is a review of the epidemiological evidence in relation to the health risks of snus use.9 The study concludes that: snus is much safer than smoking; that increases in risk of cancer and CID from snus use are undemonstrated; that switching to snus should improve the health prospects of those smokers who are unable or unwilling to relinquish nicotine; and that there is no good evidence that introducing snus in a population would encourage smoking initiation or discourage cessation. As stated in the report, the study was supported by Philip Morris Products, Swedish Match and the European Smokeless Tobacco Council.
In 2016, Lee co-authored a Report on the epidemiological evidence on environmental tobacco smoke and cancers other than lung or breast. It was stated in the report, that the study was supported financially by Japan Tobacco International (JTI). The study argued that ‘’Meta-analysis showed no significant relationship with ETS for nasopharynx cancer, head and neck cancer, various digestive cancers (stomach, rectum, colorectal, liver, pancreas), or cancers of endometrium, ovary, bladder and brain.’’10
In 2018, Lee again co-authored a report on ‘’The relationship of cigarette smoking in Japan to lung cancer, COPD, ischemic heart disease and stroke: A systematic review’’.11 It was funded by Philip Morris International. Furthermore, Lee co-authored a report which updated the ‘’evidence relation smoking bans to incidence of heart disease’’. It was financially supported by JTI, claiming that ban effects are modest.12

Study on Snus

In a recent study, Lee presented evidence at the Global Forum on Nicotine (GFN) that snus is around 95% safer than smoking tobacco.1314 Snus is a Smokeless Tobacco product that is used particularly in Sweden and has a relatively high nicotine delivery and absorption. It also has lower levels of harmful substances.15 16

TobaccoTactics Resources

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P N Lee Statistics and Computing Ltd Homepage

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  1. P. N. Lee, Curriculum Vitae, undated, accessed April 2019
  2. PN Lee Statistics and Computing Ltd, Letter from Peter N Lee to RE Thornton enclosing part of report on confounding variables for lung cancer, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, 25 January 1991, Bates no: 400118333-400118391, accessed April 2019
  3. Convington & Burling, Proctor, J Christopher, Proposal for a Confounders Study, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, 27 November 1991, Bates no: 300540330, accessed April 2019
  4. PN Lee, Evaluation of Epidemiological Studies on ETS and Lung Cancer from A Statistical Perspective, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, unknown, Bates no: 400103853-400103854, accessed April 2019
  5. Fundamental Research Centre, DP Robinson, Nicotine Metabolites, Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, 3 December 1991, Bates no: 400372848-400372858, accessed April 2019
  6. BAT Boyse,Letter from Sharon Boyse to Hilary Thompson regarding EEC health warnings,Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, 15 July 1991,accessed April 2019
  7. Report of the Committee of Experts, “Tobacco company strategies to undermine tobacco control activities at the World Health Organisation”, July 2000, p193-198
  8. P.N. Lee, Epidemiological evidence on environmental tobacco smoke and heart disease Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, May 2010, accessed 3 February 2012
  9. Peter N Lee,of the epidemiological evidence relating snus to health, Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, 2011,accessed May 2019
  10. P. N. Lee, A. J. Thornton, J. S. Hamling, Epidemiological evidence on environmental tobacco smoke and cancers other than lung or breast,, 16 June 2016, accessed April 2019
  11. P. N. Lee, B. A. Forey, A. J. Thornton, K. J. Coombs, The relationship of cigarette smoking in Japan to lung cancer, COPD, ischemic heart disease and stroke: A systematic review version 1; peer review: 2 approved, F1000 Research, 19 February 2018, accessed April 2019
  12. P. N. Lee, J. S. Fry, A. J. Thornton, Updating the evidence relating smoking bans to incidence of heart disease,, 27 November 2018, accessed April 2019
  13. D. Cross, Swedish Government Doesn’t Oppose Snus, Planet of the Vapes, 25 August 2017, accessed April 2019
  14. P. Lakhani-Quiling, New data shows low risk nicotine product snus is 95 percent safer than smoking,, undated, accessed April 2019
  15. Swedish Food Regulations Food Act,Food Act (Livsmedelslagen SFS 2006:804),2006, accessed May 2019
  16. Royal College of Physicians,Harm reduction in nicotine addiction: helping people who can’t quit. A report by the Tobacco Advisory Group of the Royal College of Physicians,2007