Objective: To describe how the tobacco industry developed a network of consultants to promote ventilation as a "solution" to secondhand smoke (SHS) in the USA.
Methods: Analysis of previously secret tobacco industry documents.
Results: As with its other strategies to undermine the passage of clean indoor legislation and regulations, the tobacco industry used consultants who represented themselves as independent but who were promoting the industry's ventilation "solution" strategies under close, but generally undisclosed, industry supervision. The nature of the industry's use of ventilation consultants evolved over time. In the 1980s, the industry used them in an effort to steer the concerns about indoor air quality away from secondhand smoke, saying SHS was an insignificant component of a much larger problem of indoor air quality and inadequate ventilation. By the 1990s, the industry and its consultants were maintaining that adequate ventilation could easily accommodate "moderate smoking". The consultants carried the ventilation message to businesses, particularly the hospitality business, and to local and national and international regulatory and legislative bodies.
Conclusion: While the tobacco industry and its consultants have gone to considerable lengths to promote the tobacco industry's ventilation "solution", this strategy has had limited success in the USA, probably because, in the end, it is simpler, cheaper, and healthier to end smoking. Tobacco control advocates need to continue to educate policymakers about this fact, particularly in regions where this strategy has been more effective.