We Didn't Start the Pyre

An alternate set of lyrics for "We Didn't Start the Fire" by Billy Joel.
Humphrey Bogart, Clark Gable, Bette Davis, Betty Grable
Gracie Allen, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio
Buster Keaton, Burl Ives, Bert Parks, Vincent Price
Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz
Nat King Cole, Yul Brynner, Chuck Connors, Lana Turner
Ian Fleming, Henry Corden, Jean Vander Pyl
Eisenhower, FDR,  Oppenheimer, Groucho Marx
Peter Sellers, Peter Gzowski, Peter Jennings goodbye

We didn't start the pyre
Cigarettes are burning; now the world's been learning:
We didn't start the pyre
Corporations light it but they tried to hide it

Errol Flynn, Ernie Kovacs, Eric Carr, Eddie Kendricks
Eddie Rabbit, Edward Murrow, Ed Sullivan
Rod Serling, Rowland Evans, R.J. Reynolds, Rory Calhoun
Roger Miller, Roger Maris, George Harrison
Robert Shaw, Robert Mitchum, Robert Palmer, Richard Burton
Richard Boone, Dashiell Hammett, Walt Disney, Dean Martin
Dick Powell, Dick York, Dick Haymes, Don Knotts
David Janssen, David Hodo, David Millar, Redd Foxx

We didn't start the pyre
Guys in suits ignite it; now they've been indicted
We didn't start the pyre
Let's speed their demising with a big uprising

Audrey Meadows, Agnes Moorehead, Colleen Dewhurst, Susan Hayward
Linda Darnell, Anne Ramsey, Lee Remick, Gene Tierney
Nancy Walker, Nancy Gore, Barb Tarbox, Mary Wells
Princess Margaret, Dana Reeve, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy
Chet Huntley, Forrest Tucker, Tyrone Power, Victor Crawford
Kiel Martin, Harry Nilsson, Bill Tuttle, Carl Wilson
Andy Kaufman, Alan Landers, Mark Twain, Michael Landon
Lon Chaney, Louis Armstrong, Larry Linville, Leonard Bernstein

We didn't start the pyre
Now we're agonizing watching loved ones dying
We didn't start the pyre
While the doctors chide it, make the courts decide it

William Buckley, Tex Williams, William Talman, Warren Zevon
Warren Harding, Wayne McLaren, Morton Downey Jr.
Walter Matthau, Mo Howard, Curly Howard, Shemp Howard
Scott Fitzgerald, Spencer Tracy, Sammy Davis Jr.
Sigmund Freud, Sarah Vaughan, Steve McQueen, Spike Jones
John Wayne blown away, what else do I have to say?

We didn't start the pyre
Health care underwrites it; now let's dynamite it
We didn't start the pyre
Don't be pacifiers for the crucifiers

Gary Cooper, Glenn Hughes, Graham Chapman, Jack Soo
George C. Scott, George Knudson, George Peppard, Julie London
Jean-Paul Sartre, Jimmy Dorsey, Joan Woodbury, Gypsy Rose Lee
Jesse Owens, Jim Boyd, James Franciscus, James Brown
John Huston, John Candy, John Thaw, John Gotti
John Testrake, Lyndon Johnson, Johnny Paycheck, Johnny Carson
Jack Wild, Jim Varney, Wolfman Jack, Jack Benny
Jackie Gleason, Jacquie O., I can't take it anymore

We didn't start the pyre
Lists are growing dire; now I'm getting tired
We didn't start the pyre
'til tobacco's gone will it still burn on
and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and

We didn't start the pyre
It's been piling higher making bucks for liars
We didn't start the pyre
If we stand united, we can quickly fight it
We didn't start the pyre
Big Tobacco's trying to escape by bribing
We didn't start the pyre
Though they're great deniers, it's time they're retired
We didn't start the pyre
We can turn the tide on all their homicides
We didn't start the pyre
There's no justifying of their terrorizing
We didn't start the pyre. . .

Joe Jackson protest

Grim Reaper at Joe Jackson concert, May 5, 2008On May 5, 2008, members of Airspace Action on Smoking and Health protested a Joe Jackson concert, held at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts at the University of British Columbia.

Why was Airspace protesting this event? So glad you asked.

We learned about Joe Jackson and his "allegiance" to the tobacco industry a few months ago. At that time, Airspace president Errol Povah attempted to contact singer/songwriter Jackson (via his website), to challenge him to a public debate on any and all aspects of smoking/tobacco control. While Povah didn't get through to Jackson, directly, one of Jackson's reps did the talking for him... and made it clear that Jackson had neither the time nor the energy -- nor the inclination -- to debate the issue, "now or ever." We urge you to check out Jackson's website -- www.joejackson.com -- and click on the "SMOKING" link at the top of the home page. As you will see, Joe is not just your average, run-of-the-mill smoker; he's clearly a puppet of the tobacco industry. He denies getting paid by the tobacco industry; we have no way of proving otherwise, but obviously, we have our doubts about that. In any case, whether Jackson likes it or not, he's a celebrity and a role model... and as such, he should be ashamed of himself for so aggressively promoting such an addictive, disease-causing, debilitating and deadly product...the only legal product which kills when used exactly as intended by the manufacturer!

As we stated in our hand-out -- or "Program!" as we called it -- we didn't seriously expect any Joe Jackson fans to, after reading our material, change their minds about going to the concert... and leave. But we do encourage everyone to think about the issue... and Jackson's role in promoting a product which is, ultimately, responsible for one of the biggest drains on our "in-crisis" health-care system.

Here's an e-mail we got from one now-former Joe Jackson fan:

I attended the concert in Vancouver, last nite... had I been aware of Joe's position on smoking, I would not have attended. There can be no excuse for supporting this vile and sickening addiction. I'm thankful to Vancouver Airspace for enlightening me on Joe's position ... I will not buy any of his music until he comes clean.

Joni Mitchell Phlegm

ImageFrom Frank magazine: “Joni Mitchell’s lament for our desecrated environment”. Song titles include “Big Yellow Fingers” and “Wild Smokers Don’t Run Very Fast”.

Click here to view the full-size image.

Deadly Fumes

"Deadly Fumes: British Columbia workplace death toll attributable to secondhand smoke 1989 to 1998" is a report published by Airspace in 2001. You can view the PDF by clicking here.

The Tobacco Industry funds "hospitality" organizations

The indications were there all along. Nick Losito of the Vancouver-Richmond Regional Health Board noticed that the number of cigarette vending machines in pubs increased in January, even though the WCB no-smoking regulation should have reduced the need for them.

The persistence of BCTV reporter Darlene Heidemann eventually paid off. She discovered that the tobacco industry gives $800,000 per year to the Canadian Hotel Association's "Courtesy of Choice" campaign. Hardly any of this money is used to keep ashtrays out of hotel lobbies. Instead, it pays the salary of Tim Crowhurst, who works for Vance Campbell's "Coalition of Hospitality Organizations".

When confronted by Heidemann with this information, Campbell initially denied that COHO got tobacco industry money, then claimed that Crowhurst was only a "media consultant" for them.

There's more. All three of the multinational tobacco companies that do business in Canada are "associate members" of the B.C. Liquor Licensee and Retailers Association, the group headed by Dave Crown, another very vocal opponent of the WCB regulations. Also, the 2000 annual report of Rothmans describes the "Benson & Hedges Business Edge" program. This basically consists of bribing pub owners for placement of cigarette vending machines.

The tobacco industry has a lot at stake here. A study done in the Whistler-Squamish area shortly before the WCB regulations were invalidated showed that pub employees were quitting smoking in startling numbers. Every smoker that quits costs the tobacco industry about $700 per year of revenue. Add this to the 45,000 customers they lose to cancer, emphysema, heart disease, etc. and we're talking about a serious dent in their profits.

Are you getting smoked out of your otherwise smoke-free home?

Whether you live in an apartment, a condo or any other multi-unit dwelling, tell us your story. We are "gathering evidence"... we've already got many complaints but, as the old expression goes, the more the merrier... and when we've got enough, we - hopefully with a little help from the NDP opposition - will lobby the B.C. Liberals (specifically, the Health Minister) for legislation to eliminate this very serious problem.

If anonymity is a concern, please don't worry about it. We would certainly like to have some basic contact information for you (i.e., an e-mail address and, hopefully, a phone number) but if you don't even want that information to go to the government, we will look after that.

We recommend you keep a diary for this specific purpose. Please provide as much detail as you're comfortable with. For example, if you'd rather not provide your full address, please consider providing the street name or, at the very least, the town/city. And dates and times (or frequency of exposure) are good too... and temperatures as well. And any other details you may consider pertinent.

Clean Air Carols

Singing Christmas carols in front of Imperial Tobacco's Vancouver office was an annual event for Airspace, until Imperial shut down this office and relocated it to Calgary.

However, the carols that we sang are available for use by other Sworn Enemies of the Tobacco Industry. Included are such classics as "Law Suits are Comin' to Town" and "We're Dreaming of a Smoke-Free Christmas".

Read more: Clean Air Carols

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