An Environmental Protection Agency committee concludes that cigarette smoke causes cancer in non-smokers and may be an important cause of bronchitis, pneumonia and asthma in children.

The effect of passive smoking on children "might have a greater public health impact than the increase in cancer," Morton Lippmann of New York University, chairman of the advisory panel, said Wednesday.The Coalition on Smoking or Health immediately embraced the panel's conclusions.

"The committee action is a big win for the American people," said Fran Du Melle, head of the coalition and deputy director of the American Lung Association's Washington office.

"Given what we know about smoking and lung cancer, there should be no question that passive smoking can cause lung cancer in innocent bystanders," Du Melle said in a statement. The coalition is made up of the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society.

The EPA panel's acceptance of findings that had been reached in a draft report on passive smoking assures that those conclusions will survive in the final version of the report, agency officials said.