The media tends to under-report stories about fires started by cigarette smoking, but somebody forgot to tell the Edmonton Sun. They ran a story on October 4, 2007 with the title Smoke leads to fire.

The case of Philippa Byfield is the most recent of the six fires documented here. She was a 51-year-old terminal cancer patient, and hastened her death by attempting to light a cigarette while connected to an oxygen machine. In the process, she burned down a $1.5 million home belonging to her father, Ted Byfield.

Ted Byfield and Link Byfield (Philippa's brother) were the publishers of Alberta Report and a sister publication, BC Report. Their publishing operation went defunct in 2003. During the period when Vancouver and Burnaby adopted no-smoking bylaws, and the WCB attempted to restrict smoking in workplaces throughout BC, the Byfields, along with writer Derek DeCloet, consistently followed the tobacco industry party line on smoking. Among other things, they ran headlines claiming that restrictions on second-hand smoke were based on "faulty science" (Nov. 10, 1997). Some more random examples:

  • Full-page ad from "Canada's Major Tobacco Manufacturers" (Dec. 14, 1998)

  • "If the WHO has its way (by reducing exposure to second-hand smoke), however, Mexico and other developing countries will soon become less civilized." (Feb. 22, 1999)

  • Bylaw enforcement employees in Victoria characterized as "ashtray cops". (March 22, 1999)

The Edmonton Sun article says that Link Byfield declined comment on the cause of the fire. That's unfortunate; I would like to hear his and Ted's opinion on whether Philippa's smoking habit was worth it.

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