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

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

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