This is a hard-hitting letter to the editor sent to Newsday by Gene Borio of tobacco.org. It draws attention to the mainstream media bias in the coverage of the renaming of the National Tennis Center.

Your Sept. 1 editorial "Drug Pushing" said "Lying is as natural to tobacco executives as breathing." The editorial cited Judge Gladys Kessler's Federal Court ruling which found that the industry's deceitful activities have led to "a staggering number of deaths per year, an immeasurable amount of human suffering and economic loss." Your outrage was triggered by just one example of what the Court also found: that the fraud is still going on today.

And yet, Newsday this week has gushingly eulogized Billie Jean King, a woman who shamelessly advanced tobacco's cause for over 30 years. Your articles not only pointedly omitted the name of her Virginia Slims tour which helped brand cigarettes as a badge of women's freedom, they also failed to note that King was a Philip Morris board member when many shameful acts -- delineated in the Kessler verdict-- occurred. At the USTA ceremony King even thanked one of those "lying...tobacco executives" you refer to: Philip Morris' Joseph Cullman III. Cullman was also mentioned in the Kessler's verdict--but not thanked.

Within the next few years, as the disease toll from Ms. King's activities comes due, and as the industry's depredations continue to be exposed, her name will rightfully be removed from the Tennis Center.

If addiction, disease and death is now accepted as the cost of success, then ethics in tennis has certainly come a long way down, baby.

Gene Borio

Image"No, smoking is not a possible hazard, and King has an ethical blind spot about cigarettes that you could drive a truck through." Former Airspace President and lifelong tennis player Bob Broughton weighs in on the recent renaming of the USTA National Tennis Center to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. No, he doesn't approve of it. Read his blog entry by clicking here.

New York City Mayor and media billionaire has announced that he is giving $125 million of his own money to establish a foundation that will create and support programs aimed at helping the world become tobacco free. It will work to change the image of tobacco, support efforts to educate communities about its harms, create a global clearinghouse for anti-tobacco ads and bring together a legal consortium to assist in drafting and passing legislation.

Story from the New York Times: Bloomberg Gives Millions to Anti-Smoking Efforts

Since Bhutan seems to be getting by just fine without tobacco sales, White Rock Councillor Matt Todd wants to see if we can make it work here. He's proposing that White Rock become the first city in Canada to ban tobacco sales.

Draconian? Unworkable? Nannyism? Bhutan has heard it all before. Does Todd have a chance? Hard to say; powerful business interests are swinging their howitzers towards him now.

And why bother, when no point in White Rock is more than a kilometre from Surrey where stores will happily provide nic-fixes to White Rock's addicts? Todd says the point is denormalization of smoking, which is a fancy word for helping the public realize that voluntarily setting something in your face on fire is not exactly a particularly sane thing to do by a sentient being. And getting rid of the power walls of cigarettes behind White Rock store counters brings us one step closer to a world where smoking is simply not considered normal.

In 1995, White Rock became one of the first Canadian cities to unilaterally ban smoking in restaurants rather than wait for a coordinated GVRD attack plan, a move which was also heavily vilified by business interests as draconian. Don't count White Rock out just yet.

No, we certainly haven't forgotten that today is Canada Day. However, today is also a special day is the state of Colorado. After years of tireless campaigning, and an unsuccessful court challenge, a no-smoking law is going into effect there.

We have chosen to honour Bruce Watson, a tireless anti-tobacco campaigner, by naming this day after him. We would also like again thank Anne Landman, another Colorado anti-tobacco activist, for loaning us her "Joe Chemo" costume a few years ago.

A press release from the Clean Air Coalition of BC:

Vancouver, B.C. - On May 22, Heather Crowe succumbed to lung cancer as a result of working in smoky restaurants for years, even though she never smoked a day in her life. She is considered by many to be one of the most important individuals to influence governments across Canada to protect workers and the public from second-hand smoke. "Residents and workers in Quebec and Ontario will benefit from Heather's advocacy efforts as 100% smoke-free legislation is implemented by the end of May," stated Bobbe Wood, President and CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of B.C. & Yukon. "They can thank Heather for her selfless efforts in helping make this happen."

Airspace member Ken Knight's class-action lawsuit against Imperial Tobacco over its marketing of cigarettes branded "mild" or "light" was given the go-ahead to proceed in an Appeal Court judgment handed down on May 11, 2006.

Knight v. Imperial Tobacco Canada Limited judgement on Feb. 8, 2005: http://www.canlii.org/bc/cas/bcsc/2005/2005bcsc172.html
BC Court of Appeal ruling on May 11, 2006: http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/Jdb-txt/CA/06/02/2006BCCA0235.htm

The US organization Global Exchange has named Philip Morris to its list of "Most Wanted" Corporate Human Rights Violators of 2005.

According to the World Health Organization, tobacco is the second major cause of preventable death in the world. Nearly five million lives per year are claimed by the tobacco industry, whose products results in premature death for half the people who use them. Among tobacco companies, Philip Morris is notorious. Now called Altria, it is the world's largest and most profitable cigarette corporation and maker of Marlboro, Virginia Slims, Parliament, Basic and many other brands of cigarettes. Philip Morris is also a leader in pushing smoking with young people around the world.

Philip Morris has consistently misled consumers about the dangers of its products. Documents uncovered in a lawsuit filed against the tobacco industry by the state of Minnesota showed that Philip Morris and other leading tobacco corporations knew very well of the dangers of tobacco products and the addictiveness of nicotine, yet they continued to deny these realities in public until the internal company documents were brought to light. To this day, Philip Morris deceives consumers about the harm of its products by offering light, mild and low-tar cigarettes that give consumers the illusion that these brands are "healthier" than traditional cigarettes.

Philip Morris has actively targeted the world's youth by researching smoking patterns and attitudes and targeting youth as potential customers. Marlboro cigarettes are the top brand for youth in the United States. Although the company says it doesn't want kids to smoke, it spends millions of dollars every day marketing and promoting cigarettes to youth. Overseas, it has even hired underage Marlboro girls to distribute free cigarettes to other children and sponsored concerts where cigarettes were handed out to minors.

As anti-tobacco campaigns and government regulations are slowing tobacco use in Western countries, Philip Morris has aggressively moved into developing country markets, where smoking and smoking-related deaths are on the rise. According to a study by the Harvard School of Public Health, tobacco's killing fields are shifting to the developing world and Eastern Europe, where most of the world's smokers now live. Preliminary numbers released by the World Health Organization predict global deaths due to smoking-related illnesses will nearly double by 2020, with more than three-quarters of those deaths in the developing world.

Meanwhile, Philip Morris' profits continue to grow. In the third quarter of 2005 alone, Altria's net revenue was $25 billion, up from 2004 in large part due to the high performance of Philip Morris USA and Philip Morris International.

Full story from Global Exchange site: "Most Wanted" Corporate Human Rights Violators of 2005

Here are five press reports of the Grim Reaper's appearance at the Emerging Tobacco Markets 2005 trade show in Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysia Kini, Nov. 14, 2005: "Grim Reaper" appears at Tobacco Expo

Malaysia Kini, Nov. 15, 2005: "Mr. Death" clouds KL tobacco convention

Malay Mail, Nov. 16, 2005: Tobacco fair in KL under fire

The News, Nov. 17, 2005: A grim message

There will be another one of these trade shows in Sao Paulo, Brazil, November 14-16, 2008.