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

Safeway, London Drugs and other pharmacy chains threaten legal action if cigarette sales banned

Article by Pamela Fayerman in the Vancouver Sun: Safeway, London Drugs and other pharmacy chains threaten legal action if cigarette sales banned

The letter was also signed by the CEO's of Rexall, Thrifty Foods, Overwaitea and the Medicine Shoppe. The article points out that BC is the only province that allows tobacco to be sold in stores containing pharmacies.

Click here to see the actual letter.

Nicoteens

A story by transplanted Canadian Samantha Bee about child labour on The Daily Show:

World No Tobacco Day 2014

Almost 5 months after the 50th Anniversary of the first U.S. Surgeon-General's Report on the Hazards of Smoking, Airspace Action on Smoking and Health -- the world's leading all volunteer anti-tobacco organization -- is marking the World Health Organization's 26th annual World No Tobacco Day (May 31, 2014) by once again renewing our call for the total eradication of the tobacco industry (yes, both the legal and illegal components) from the face of the planet.

Themes for WNTDs have covered a wide range of very worthwhile ideas and initiatives over the past 26 years, including:

  • Public places and transport: better be tobacco free (1991);
  • Tobacco free workplaces: safer and healthier (1992);
  • Health services: our windows to a tobacco free world (1993);
  • Sport and art without tobacco: play it tobacco free (1996);
  • United for a tobacco free world (1997);
  • Tobacco free sports (2002);
  • Tobacco free film, tobacco free fashion (2003); and
  • Tobacco free youth (2009)   [emphasis mine throughout].

Many other themes use the words "without tobacco", clearly implying tobacco free as well.

As wonderful as all of those objectives are -- tobacco free public places, transport, workplaces, sport, art, film, fashion, youth, etc. -- a tobacco free world is the 'umbrella' that covers all of those things and, clearly, much more.

Read more: World No Tobacco Day 2014

Another useless BC Minister of Health

A colleague sent me an article (PDF) from the current issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal and, frankly, I'm in shock (and, after 35 years of anti-tobacco activism, I'm not easily shocked).  I actually checked the calendar, to make sure it was NOT April Fool's Day.  And I double-checked the date on the article; there does not appear to be a typo in "2014".  Still not convinced it was true, I went to the CMAJ site and searched for the article.  In addition to the above-mentioned article, my search revealed a similar CMAJ article, from [coincidentally] April 1, 1992 (that's correct; 22 long years ago!) entitled, "Antismoking MDs use fighting words as they take aim at tobacco sales by pharmacies."  22 years ago!!!

With the exception of the comments made by Paul Billings, Jack Boomer and Simon Chapman, the current article is a joke...a very, very sick joke!

When Terry Lake became Health Minister almost a year ago, I had very high hopes that B.C. would join the rest of the country -- the 9 other provinces and 3 territories (and, dare I say, much of the rest of the 'civilized' world) -- and finally get tobacco out of pharmacies.  Today, after reading the CMAJ article, I'm reminded, yet again, that the B.C. Liberal$ are very much in bed with Big Tobacco.  Let me provide a little background.

Read more: Another useless BC Minister of Health

Vancouver's cigarette recycling program

While in theory Airspace is in favour of cigarette recycling and anything that lessens tobacco litter, because of several fundamental flaws in Vancouver's new pilot program, as listed below, Airspace must oppose it as currently designed.

  1. The "recycling receptacles" are de-facto ashtrays. These serve to increase the visibility of smoking, functionally contributing to it's "renormalization". Nothing could make the tobacco industry happier.
  2. Many of the receptacles are located within the City's 6m no-smoking buffer zones from doorways, windows, or other air intakes, thereby encouraging violations of the City's Health Bylaw. Such is not only highly inappropriate, but in fact illegal. Airspace will be considering it's options in addressing this issue should it remain unchanged.
  3. The program is indirectly funded by the tobacco industry. Government should have no connections whatsoever to an industry whose basic business model consists of illegally obtaining underage customers, addicting them, and then ultimately killing half of them.

Furthermore, the current program will, at best, have only a marginal effect on tobacco littering behaviour, with numerous butts currently seen littered not only just feet away from the receptacles, but even directly below them.

Airspace is committed to the elimination of tobacco litter through a provincial deposit-return program which will not only be much more effective, but also serve to further denormalize smoking via not requiring ashtrays, violating health bylaws, or industry funding.

Airspace in the 2013 BC general election

A letter to the editor published in the Surrey/North Delta Leader on April 25:

I would never be so naïve as to suggest that tobacco control (tobacco being the leading -- and most easily and cheaply preventable -- cause of disease, disability and premature death, by far) should ever be a 'sliver', never mind an entire 'plank', of any political party's pre-election platform but...
 
Within four short years of Gordon Campbell's Liberals coming to power (in 2001, at which time B.C. was #1 [provincially/territorially] in Canada, in terms of tobacco control), B.C. plummeted to 9th!  And under Christy Clark's leadership, the situation has not improved.
 
If... correction, when the NDP wins the next election, I have several suggestions as to how Adrian Dix et al can bring B.C. out of the dark ages on this important matter, and there is no better place to start than by getting tobacco out of all pharmacies...in the very last province/territory to do so.
 
Great legacy, Gordo and Christy!
 
Errol E. Povah
President, Airspace Action on Smoking and Health

Thatcher: The Silence is Deafening!

The sequel to Bye-bye, Maggie

The day of Margaret Thatcher's death, I -- with some help from a colleague/former Airspace President Bob Broughton -- wrote a rather scathing article about her, under the headline "TOBACCO WHORE THATCHER DIES".
 
Within hours of it being posted on the Airspace site, I received complaints from 4 people.  Not one of them disagreed with the 'content' of the headline; their biggest concern was the timing (after all, Thatcher was still 'warm'...not to be confused with the decent, caring human being who had a heart and a conscience kind of warm).
 
So, after some discussion and a vote among Airspace Directors, it was decided to replace that headline with the one you now see:  "Bye-bye, Maggie".
 
While I agreed with the above-mentioned complainants and voted in favour of changing the headline, I will now explain why I chose "TOBACCO WHORE THATCHER DIES" in the first place.  I strongly suspected (correction:  I KNEW!) that there would be no mention of Thatcher's multi-million dollar 'whoring' for Philip Morris (one of the biggest tobacco companies in the world [and that 'partnership' had its beginnings long before she retired from politics]) in the apparently-still-rather-tobacco-friendly mainstream media...both locally and globally.  And, as it turned out, I was absolutely right:  Not a word!  That is why I felt the need to 'scream' it out, so big and bold and loud...to somehow compensate for the (at that time, only anticipated) silence from the mainstream media.
 
For the record:  In the tobacco context, the word "whore"/"whoring" is gender neutral...and applies to anyone and everyone who, in any manner, shape or form whatsoever, works for or supports Big Tobacco, whether paid to do so or not [trust me, despite their denials, the vast, vast majority of tobacco whores are very well paid]).  The first time I recall hearing/using "tobacco whore" was to describe Greg "Player's" Moore, a walking, talking cigarette pack (WTCP) who drove a cigarette pack on four wheels until his death, at the age of 24 (in 1999), while racing in the... wait for it... Marlboro 500.  It must also be noted that what truly set Moore apart from most other WTCPs was his extremely enthusiastic lobbying of politicians on Parliament Hill, as he vehemently opposed any and all government efforts to restrict/eliminate tobacco sponsorship of sporting and cultural events.  Despite Moore's best efforts on behalf of his pimps at Big Tobacco, such sponsorship ended just 4 years after Moore's death... and no, despite dire tobacco-industry-perpetuated doom and gloom predictions, no jobs were lost, no businesses closed, no events ended and, perhaps most importantly, the sky did not fall.  However, I digress; back to Maggie.    
 
April 9, 2013 -- the day after Thatcher's death -- I picked up the four biggest newspapers available in Vancouver:  The two local papers; the Vancouver Sun and The Province... and the two national papers; The Globe & Mail and the National Post.
 
The stories of her death (including pictures) occupied at least half of front page of all of the papers except The Province (no mention of her on the front page, but 2 full pages inside).  All told, between the four papers, there were a total of 20 full pages of articles (again, including pictures) of Thatcher!  That's an average of five full pages per paper, with the Globe & Mail taking first (read, last) place, with 8 full pages, spanning all 4 sections (A [News], B [Business], L [Life and Arts] and S [British Columbia News, Sports and Obituaries])!
 
There are details about every little aspect of her life, from the day she was born til the day she died; everything you could ever possibly want to know about Maggie...and then some!  The good!  The bad!  And the ugly!  Spanning her entire life!
 
But not a single bloody word about her whoring for Big Tobacco where, between her $250,000 annual salary, an additional $250,000 a year to her foundation, plus $50,000 a pop for every speech she gave (not to mention her million dollar [courtesy of Philip Morris] 70th birthday bash), she 'earned' double or triple her salary as British Prime Minister!
 
The closest any of those 4 papers came to actually mentioning Thatcher's whoring for Philip Morris -- running a close second, with 7 exciting pages of Thatcher coverage -- was the National Post, which said, near the end of a full-page article, "Margaret Thatcher left office temporarily dazed and embittered, but sound in mind and body, full of energy and initially with nothing to do except write her memoirs -- upon which she embarked the following year." (emphasis mine)  As I said, close...but no cigar, pardon the pun.  
 
The main point of all of this being:  If Margaret Thatcher had been a sweet little angel who could do no wrong during her political life, then I might be able to forgive the media for blissfully ignoring that 'minor little detail' about her becoming a multi-million dollar tobacco whore within just 2 or 3 months of resigning/retiring from politics.  But the fact of the matter is -- as was very well documented in all of those 20 pages in 4 papers -- she was extremely controversial, made all sorts of mistakes, etc.  And yet the media chose to ignore the biggest mistake of her life:  Going to work for Philip Morris (makers of the world's #1 brand, Marlboro)...a company that is directly responsible for a huge percentage of the 6 million annual deaths (about 10% of which are innocent bystanders/non-smokers), globally.
 
There was no shortage of mainstream media coverage of Thatcher's extremely controversial employment by Philip Morris, when she first got involved with the tobacco company, back in the early '90s.  Simply google "Thatcher and tobacco" to find many of those links, including  http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/thatcher-condemned-on-tobacco-consultancy-1534431.html
 
It's possible that, after her death, some mainstream media outlet somewhere on the planet said a few words about Thatcher's involvement with Philip Morris but, based on what I've seen so far, I have my doubts.  That said, if you discover any such mention, please forward it to me here.
 
ATTENTION ALL MAINSTREAM MEDIA:  Why the silence???  And how long do you expec your  'tobacco-friendliness' will continue... especially given the fact that your tobacco whoring (running tobacco ads, co-sponsoring tobacco-sponsored events, employing a few very tobacco-friendly reporters/talk show hosts, etc.) 'officially' ended about ten years ago?!?
 
Errol E. Povah
President, Airspace
 

What is the Macdonald-Laurier Institute?

On March 30, the Vancouver Sun published this article: Tobacco smuggling jeopardizes border traffic. This is the first sentence: "Because keeping the border open and goods flowing with our American neighbours is practically the definition of Canada's economic self-interest, anything that attracts the unfavourable attention of Washington to our border is to be avoided at all costs."

Now, that's the way to get the reader's attention: something is going on that might interfere with your ability to make those trips to Bellingham to get gallon jugs of milk and high-quality, low-cost shoes at Big 5.

What the article is about is the smuggling of cigarettes from Canada into the United States. It was written by Brian Lee Crowley, who is identified as the managing director of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.

This deserves further scrutiny. "Macdonald-Laurier Institute": named after two of Canada's most famous prime ministers. That sounds important. (Of course, if I named my cats "Sir John A." and "Sir Wilfrid", that wouldn't make them important.) However, the use of the word "institute" should be a red flag for any student of Postmedia publications. That's because the associate editor of the Sun, Fazil Mihlar, was a "fellow" of the Fraser Institute prior to joining Postmedia. This is the Fraser Institute that takes money from the Koch brothers and ExxonMobil, and uses it to champion climate change denial. They also put out an annual ranking of British Columbia high schools, which is reported as "news" by the Sun, The Province, and CKNW without any questions raised about its accuracy or usefulness.

So, what is this "Macdonald-Laurier Institute"? It was characterized by Donald Gutstein of The Tyee as a "key accomplice to Tories in their assaults on truth."

Crowley, author of the Sun piece, believes that the tar sands, fracking, and fish farms are good things. The institute doesn't reveal who funds them, so we don't know who (other than Peter Munk of Barrick Gold) is paying for their opinions.

We do know that one of their directors is Purdy Crawford, who was the CEO of Imasco from 1985 to 2000. Imasco was a holding company whose assets included Imperial Tobacco, the purveyors of Player's, Du Maurier, and Matinee cigarettes.

Crawford would be a good resource for Crowley on the subject of cigarette smuggling. During Crawford's watch at Imasco, Imperial Tobacco was selling 6 billion cigarettes a year in the United States; this was 24% of their sales. No, people in the US were not switching from Marlboro to Player's in significant numbers. These cigarettes were shipped to warehouses in the US, then sold to smugglers, who illegally brought the cigarettes back into Canada. This activity is documented in Imperial Tobacco internal memos. Crawford appears on-camera in this CBC News story aired February 1, 2009:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZsvJjOCDT9s

So, why does the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, Crowley, and likely Crawford, now have an interest in the issue of cigarette smuggling? One possible explanation is, things have changed since 2000. The cigarettes being smuggled now have the brand names "Play Fares", "Golden Leaf", "Signal", and "Wolf Pack" instead of Player's, Matinee, and Du Maurier. Haven't heard of these brands? That's because they are manufactured on Indian reserves, instead of by BAT (Imasco's successor), Philip Morris, and the other Big Tobacco companies. Perhaps the Big Tobacco companies don't want any competition, so Crowley's article is the start of an effort to push Canadian and US governments to shut this competition down. However, if this is what the real agenda is, don't expect to read about it in the Vancouver Sun.

Bye-bye, Maggie

Anti-tobacco activists are regularly told (most often, by our critics) that "education" is, if not the only way to end the tobacco epidemic, certainly the biggest/most important factor in ending it...bearing in mind that, while it definitely has a role, we've been doing the education thing for 50 years now... AND THE GLOBAL DEATH TOLL IS STILL RISING, AT AN EVER-INCREASING RATE!!!

NEWS FLASH:  As alluded to above, while education plays a role, it is NOT the biggest/most important factor in ending the tobacco epidemic; good, effective, no loopholes, enforceable and, when necessary, aggressively enforced LEGISLATION is, by far, the single most important factor in ending the tobacco epidemic.

That said, it's time for a little education, anti-tobacco style.

And, speaking of NEWS FLASHES...

I just learned about the death of tobacco whore Margaret Thatcher... and found myself wondering if anybody -- including Jon McComb (sitting in for Philip Till, on CKNW), Vaughn Palmer (clearly, a big fan of Thatcher's) and Philip Till or anybody else (tobacco-friendly media or not) around the world, fan or critic -- will have the balls to say a single word about the following (from Wikipedia... and I've high-lighted some of the more important details):


Later years

Thatcher returned to the backbenches as MP for Finchley for two years after leaving the premiership. She retired from the House at the 1992 election, aged 66, saying that leaving the Commons would allow her more freedom to speak her mind.

Post-Commons

After leaving the House of Commons, Thatcher became the first former Prime Minister to set up a foundation; it closed down in 2005 because of financial difficulties. She wrote two volumes of memoirs, The Downing Street Years (1993) and The Path to Power (1995).
In July 1992, Thatcher was hired by the tobacco company Philip Morris as a "geopolitical consultant" for $250,000 per year and an annual contribution of $250,000 to her foundation. [Sources other than Wikipedia specify $1 million or $2 million over a three-year contract.] She also earned(???) $50,000 for each speech she delivered.


Thatcher's role for Philip Morris was to open up European markets to Philip Morris' products, especially Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. From a Philip Morris internal memo, dated November 20, 1991: "Mrs. Thatcher is available to consult with executives of the Company on a variety of matters in which she has expertise, including risk analyses of investments which we may be contemplating in foreign countries, matters pending before the European Commission or Member-State Parliaments, and strategic issues that affect our business in various parts of the world . Mrs. Thatcher is particularly knowledgeable about the common market, Eastern Europe, Russia, China, South Africa, and Japan."

Thatcher was particularly successful in Kazakhstan. She made a trip there, and convinced the government to sell off their state-owned tobacco company to Philip Morris.

Philip Morris was so happy with the job she did for them, they paid for a 70th birthday bash for her on October 23, 1995 in Washington, D.C. 800 guests attended and the estimated cost of the party was $1 million.

Thatcher was just one of many high level politicians/bureaucrats who have been -- before, during and/or after their political careers -- little more than obscenely-well-paid puppets of Big Tobacco.

In Canada, for example, the federal Liberals -- under the leadership of former tobacco executive Paul Martin -- were known as "The Tobacco Party of Canada".  Many high-ranking police officers -- including former RCMP Commissioner Norman Inkster -- either directly work for or closely collaborate with various and sundry convenience store associations (read, tobacco industry front groups), under the guise of combating cigarette smuggling.  And Stephen Harper appointed former Tory Cabinet Minister Barbara McDougall to the International Development Research Centre -- a federal crown corporation which "...funds researchers in the developing world so they can build HEALTHIER, more prosperous societies" (emphasis mine) -- despite the fact that McDougall was, at the time of her appointment, a tobacco executive!  And, despite a firestorm of controversy about 3 years ago (including demands for McDougall's resignation and, when that failed, calls for Harper to remove her), when the IDRC was scheduled to dole out a bunch of big cheques to African anti-tobacco organizations, McDougall now chairs the IDRC!  Those represent just the tip of a very large high-level/pro-tobacco iceberg.

While some people may feel a need to shed a tear or two for Maggie, if I had the opportunity, I'd spit on her grave!

Errol E. Povah

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