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About 3,800 non-smoking Americans die each year from lung cancer caused by "secondhand" cigarette smoke, according to a preliminary study issued for public comment by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The study, which does not constitute a formal EPA position on passive smoking, also said scientific evidence "strongly indicates" that smoking by parents - particularly the mother - is associated with increased respiratory illness in infants.The Tobacco Institute criticized the study, released Monday, as "speculation without an adequate scientific foundation." It said the findings were not supported by previous research on passive smoking and probably would not hold up under scrutiny by the EPA's Scientific Advisory Board. The board will review the study for technical accuracy in preparation for any final EPA findings.

Anti-smoking advocates hailed the study for providing the first specific "body count" attributable to passive smoking. But they said the estimate of 3,800 lung cancer deaths represented only a fraction of the total death toll caused by inhalation of tobacco smoke from other people's cigarettes.

In particular, the groups pointed to studies that suggest "involuntary smoking" is responsible for 50,000 deaths a year from heart disease and all cancers.

John Banzhaf, executive director of Action on Smoking and Health, an anti-smoking group, said the broader health impact of passive smoking would be reflected in a "technical compendium" of passive smoking studies now being put together by several federal agencies, including the EPA.

The estimate of 3,800 lung cancer deaths caused by passive smoking is based on 24 studies done by different research teams in eight countries.