A response on plain packaging

A letter to the editor published in the National Post on June 30, written by Stan Shatenstein of Montreal:

Big Tobacco can act

Re: "Imperial Tobacco 'shocked' by Health Canada's proposal for plain packaging of cigarettes", June 26

Imperial Tobacco says it's “shocked and confused” by the government's proposed regulations mandating plain packaging for cigarettes and other tobacco products. What's truly shocking is that a company responsible for fully half this country's annual 45,000 entirely preventable, premature smoking-related deaths has the gall to continue complaining and to even threaten to take the government to court.

Imperial should just quietly keep counting its blood-soaked money and also count itself fortunate that its products are so addictive that they can't be banned outright. Prohibition is not realistic, even if tobacco's toxicity would make it entirely warranted, but any regulations the government wishes to impose, and are based on the best available evidence, are worth adoption without Big Tobacco's input.

It's also worth noting that, while Imperial laments "a number of provisions that are basically impossible to comply with,” the industry said the exact same thing when Canada was on the verge of setting a world precedent by introducing graphic warning labels in 2001. Health groups quickly found printers who could do the job, putting the lie to the firms' complaints. Canada is not the first when it comes to plain packs, but the draft regulations are rigorous and set a number of global precedents. They should be saluted, not challenged by the industry whose unconscionable actions have made them necessary.

Stan Shatenstein
Editor & Publisher, STAN Bulletin

Toss a butt, pay a fine

A ticket for $575 issued by the RCMP in Langford, west of Victoria.

 

Big - and bittersweet - changes at BC Ferries

Article by Jon Aspiri at Global News:  BC Ferries to ban passengers from staying on closed vehicle decks during sailings starting in October (includes video)

A few comments...from a 30-year employee of B.C.Ferries who retired, as a Second Officer, almost 9 years ago.

First, I was really quite amazed:  Of the two/simultaneous announcements (yes, the 'official' start dates are different but...), it seems to me that the 'ban on people in their vehicles on enclosed car decks' got far more coverage -- and seemed to be more "controversial" -- than what appears to be a very sweeping and comprehensive smoking ban.  

For the sake of 'balance', I guess they had to interview one whining woman (I wonder how long it took them to find a smoker) who seemed to think that the existing smoking areas are small enough and, of course, "they don't bother anybody" (especially those smoking areas that are directly outside the kids play areas, much to Big Tobacco's delight, on both of the Spirit class ships... with supposedly smoke-free areas aft of those smoking areas).

Second, the smoking ban has been in the works for at least a couple of years, I believe... and went through a few stages (for example, the version that existed about a year ago did not include the terminals).

For me, personally, the smoking ban is bittersweet.

From my day one at BCFS -- almost 4 decades ago, in July of '78 -- I fought the battle for the total ban (incrementally, of course) virtually every day of my career... telling both passengers (including a Hell's Angel) and crew (including a couple of ferry Captains) -- and anybody/everybody in between -- to butt out (unless, of course, they were in a designated smoking area).

Read more: Big - and bittersweet - changes at BC Ferries

Health Canada, and Big Tobacco?

To Health Canada:

Please forgive me if I don't seem very appreciative of Health Canada's so-called tobacco control efforts.

Personally, I believe that Big Tobacco -- not just in Canada, but globally -- should be completely run out of business... and there are not just one, but two completely legal ideas to achieve just that.  Obviously, the toppling of Big Tobacco won't happen overnight, but it would be 'phased out', over a period of 20 or 30 years.  All that's required, ultimately, is a little (or perhaps a great deal of) political will. 

Again, forgive me... but after reading just the one-page "Consultation on amendments to the Tobacco Reporting Regulations", I had neither the time nor the inclination to proceed any further.  That said, I had a quick look at the TRR... and, with the utmost of respect, it seems to me that one would have to be a lawyer to 'interpret' much of that document.  And, as I'm sure you well know, when it comes to lawyers, few are better paid and more successful than those who are part of Big Tobacco's small army of lawyers.  However, I digress... 

Read more: Health Canada, and Big Tobacco?

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!

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

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