Letter to the Globe and Mail on plain packaging

Dear Editor:

Re:  Canada should adopt plain packaging rules despite what Big Tobacco says (by Andre Picard, September 22,2016)

In my humble opinion, one's position on anything and everything tobacco-related ultimately boils down to one's knowledge -- and opinion -- of Big Tobacco.

If you believe that BT is just another "Good Corporate Citizen" out there, simply trying to get by in the dog-eat-dog business world, I would, with the utmost of respect, suggest that you know absolutely nothing about BT...and your opinion isn't worth the paper it's written on.

If, on the other hand, you're Andre Picard -- or a lifelong anti-tobacco activist, as I am -- you KNOW (or at least you have some small sense of) just how sleazy, wicked, mean and nasty BT is... and just how deep its pockets are.  The success or failure of BT's efforts, globally, depends almost exclusively on how many politicians it can 'buy'.

Think Big Oil is bad?  Big Sugar?  Big Food?  Big Pharma?  Or any other Big Bad corporate behemoth?

Big Tobacco is the great grand-daddy of all of them...and, frankly, Big Tobacco's "opinion" -- on any and all tobacco issues -- doesn't count!

If I may paraphrase Andre Picard, everything Big Tobacco thinks, says and does -- and produces -- is "utter rubbish"...tragically, extremely toxic and deadly rubbish!

The headline should've said, "Canada should adopt plain packaging rules because of what Big Tobacco says!" because, ultimately, what is good for society is bad for BT... and vice versa.

Errol E. Povah
President, Airspace

Plain Packaging

A message to Health Canada from Airspace:

I'm guessing you don't get a lot of requests, from Canadians, urging you to watch YouTube videos.  Well, welcome to your (possibly) first such request.  Warning:  this 18-minute video (about 1 year old now) contains some coarse language and (very brief and mild) sexual innuendo.

I would never seriously expect government health policy (specifically, in this instance, plain packaging legislation) to be based on a YouTube video or two but, after watching them -- and notwithstanding the humour -- I think you'll agree that the videos highlight just a few of Big Tobacco's immoral, unethical, sleazy and despicable tactics, globally.

Read more: Plain Packaging

One-year anniversary of the threatening letter from pharmacy chains

June 19, 2015 -- marks the first anniversary of what Airspace commonly refers to as "THE LETTER".
 
One year ago today, the Presidents/CEOs/GMs of six major Lower Mainland companies sent an extremely nasty, bullying and threatening letter (click here to see it) to the College of Pharmacists of British Columbia, in response to the College's efforts to get tobacco out of pharmacies in B.C.  "THE TOBACCO SIX" -- Clint Mahlman (London Drugs), Frank Scorpiniti (Rexall), Michael Lund (The Medicine Shoppe), Chuck Mulvenna (Safeway), Darrell Jones (Overwaitea/Save On Foods) and Jim Dores (Thrifty) -- are, clearly, much more interested in private wealth than public health.

Interestingly, The Medicine Shoppe does NOT sell any tobacco products (smoking cessation products, yes...cigarettes, chewing tobacco, etc., no).  Many efforts to contact Michael Lund/The Medicine Shoppe/McKesson Canada were unsuccessful in getting an answer to the obvious question:  Why would The Medicine Shoppe so vocally support the sale of tobacco from pharmacies when it does not sell tobacco itself?
 
One educated guess is that perhaps The Medicine Shoppe subscribes to the dreaded "slippery slope" theory; tobacco today...pop, chips and chocolate bars tomorrow.  But that's kind of bizarre too, given the fact that during a recent visit to a Medicine Shoppe, I did not see any pop, chips and chocolate bars?!?

Read more: One-year anniversary of the threatening letter from pharmacy chains

Bill C-51: Tobacco vs. Terrorism

My knowledge of the process by which dozens, perhaps hundreds of government bills make their way through the Canadian House of Commons and/or the Senate each and every year is limited to not much more than this:  I know that the bill numbers are 'recycled'.  They have to be, otherwise it would become way too cumbersome.
 
When I first heard about Bill C-51 -- the current, extremely controversial (and, dare I say, anti-democratic) anti-terrorism bill -- I thought, "Hmmm, Bill C-51.  That rings a bell."  Vaguely recalling that it had something to do with tobacco, I googled "Bill C-51 tobacco"... and, sure enough, up popped a few links -- from 1988 -- to Bill C-51, which later became the Tobacco Products Control Act.
 
What a coincidence that, 27 years later, a so-called "anti-terrorism" bill would bear the same number.

More than a quarter of a century ago, anti-tobacco activists across the country, including Airspace, celebrated the enactment of the TPCA.  Sadly, the party was short-lived, as (probably intentionally-created) loopholes -- big enough to drive tractor-trailers loaded with contraband cigarettes through -- were soon discovered.

Read more: Bill C-51: Tobacco vs. Terrorism

John Oliver on international marketing by the tobacco industry

John Oliver nailed it. Go, Jeff!

Open letter to President Obama

This is an open letter sent by Airspace President Errol Povah to U.S. President Barack Obama:

At this watershed moment in your presidency, you have an unprecedented opportunity for effective action during your remaining two years in office. We propose that you capitalize on the foundation created by you and your administration through the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which gave the Food and Drug Administration power to regulate the nicotine content of cigarettes.

Now, exactly 50 years after Surgeon General Luther Terry's landmark 1964 report, smoking remains by far the leading cause of preventable death in the USA, killing a staggering 480,000 Americans per year (about 1/5th of all deaths). Even worse, almost all smokers start and become addicted as children. By adulthood about 75% of them want to quit, but most can't. Globally, the tobacco epidemic is accelerating as well, with this century’s predicted total deaths expected to surpass one billion, ten times the total of the last century.

What perfect timing for America to take the lead in this fight! Your landmark 2009 legislation gave the FDA and America the tools necessary to successfully oppose an industry that U.S. District Court Judge Kessler found deliberately deceived the American public about the health effects and addictiveness of smoking and nicotine, and intentionally designed its products to make them more addictive.

As one of the principal goals of your remaining time in office, please push the FDA to act on the powers you gave it to regulate the nicotine content of cigarettes. Imagine the legacy of President Barack Obama: the man who ended the worst epidemic in human history.

Sincerely,

Errol E. Povah
President, Airspace Action on Smoking & Health

Letter to the Editor about cigarettes in pharmacies

This letter was published in The Tri-Cities Now on November 6, 2014:

Dear Editor:

The first line of "Plan to ban cigarette sales opposed" (Oct 21 Now) said, "You could call Bev Harris a rebel."

As a twenty-year friend and colleague of Bev's, I know she's a rebel...and, when it comes to causes, few, if any, are bigger and better than the one we -- and many others -- have chosen to tackle.

Everybody's talking about the ebola crisis.  Well, with all due respect to everyone who has been impacted by Ebola:  I don't recall when we first started hearing about it this time around, but a very conservative estimate would be one month ago.  Globally, about 5,000 people have died from Ebola.  In that same month, 100 times as many people -- yes, about 500,000 people, globally -- have died from tobacco use (about 10% of that toll being non-smokers, killed by second-hand tobacco smoke).  While ebola may have a small potential to change human history, tobacco has already done so.

A couple of other interesting comparisons:  Africa (where Ebola originated) is also a primary target of Big Tobacco, complete with virtually unfettered marketing and advertising to kids of all ages...and, while those fighting to contain/eradicate Ebola are hailed as heroes (as they should be), those of us fighting Big Tobacco are often, at best, ignored; at worst, vilified.

Read more: Letter to the Editor about cigarettes in pharmacies

Letter from the Health Officers Council of BC

A letter sent from the Health Officers Council of BC to individual board members of the College of Pharmacists: Click here to read the PDF.

Excerpts: "The sale of tobacco in pharmacies is now recognized as an unacceptable ethical and professional contradiction."

"Many institutions within British Columbia have advocated for the elimination of pharmacy tobacco sales, including the Canadian Cancer Society, the BC Lung Association, Heart and Stroke Foundation of BC and Yukon, and the Health Officers Council of BC. Regulation is overdue and we hope that you will continue to proceed down this path even in the presence of open hostility and opposition from pharmacy (tobacco) retailers and their threats of litigation."

Retailers oppose proposal to ban cigarette sales in B.C. pharmacies

Story by Global News:

Airspace response to the corporate bullies

How can one province simultaneously be #1 and #13 in terms of tobacco control?  Well, you'd have to ask Christy Clark... and/or her illustrious Health Minister, Terry Lake.

Regarding two very important aspects of Tobacco Control, among the 13 provinces and territories of Canada:

  • B.C. has been #1, in terms of the lowest percentage of smokers, for decades (for the last 14 years, since the tobacco-friendly Liberals took power, B.C. continues to be #1 despite the provincial government, not because of it); and
  • For the last year and a half (and with no end in sight at the moment), B.C. has held the dubious distinction of being #13 in terms of banning the sale, in pharmacies (and the retail outlets in which they operate), of the leading cause of disease, disability and premature death; tobacco.

On the business side, representatives of six retailers operating in BC have taken it upon themselves to bully individual members of the British Columbia College of Pharmacists with threats of personal lawsuits should they vote to remove tobacco products from pharmacies in BC. The letter correctly notes that the College does not have the power to order removal of tobacco products from separate retail space. However, it does have the power to withhold pharmaceutical licenses from establishments that provide health services while simultaneously selling the leading cause of preventable disease and premature death. These retailers appear to wish to profit from both and seem willing to use corporate bullying tactics to discourage College Board members from doing their duty.

Airspace believes that corporate threats and bullying of individuals charged with protecting public health ethics is unacceptable. If you agree, please, consider sending a message by doing your grocery and prescription/over-the-counter drug shopping elsewhere. Even more importantly, please write the corporate headquarters of these bullies and advise them that you will not shop at that store again until they remove all tobacco products and stop harassing those whose job it is to regulate the ethics of health care services and providers.

Although it is difficult to find grocery stores that do not sell tobacco products, others do not simultaneously attempt to masquerade as health care providers or threaten individual board members of organizations in charge of protecting public health ethics with lawsuits for doing their jobs.

For now, we ask that you please support our position that there is no place for tobacco in a business in which a pharmacy operates.

Useful links:

Another useless BC Minister of Health
Tobacco Free Pharmacies from the Clean Air Coalition
CVS stops selling tobacco, offers quit-smoking programs

Joomla templates by a4joomla