- Published: 05 November 2005
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.