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

Study Confirms Tea Party Was Created by Big Tobacco and Billionaires

A new academic study by Dr. Stanton Glantz confirms that front groups with longstanding ties to the tobacco industry and the billionaire Koch brothers planned the formation of the Tea Party movement more than a decade before it exploded onto the U.S. political scene. Here's an article published at desmogblog.com: Study Confirms Tea Party Was Created by Big Tobacco and Billionaires.

The Tea Party was an anti-black, anti-Latino, anti-Muslim, and homophobic astroturf effort. if you belong to one of these "target" groups, you’re handing over money to people that hate you every time you buy a pack of cigarettes.

Ed Koch 1924-2013, Mayor of New York City

It is with great sadness that Vancouver-based Airspace Action on Smoking and Health notes the recent passing of former New York City Mayor Ed Koch.  He died Friday (Feb 1, 13) in NYC at the age of 88.
 
Here's a quote from one of the articles about his funeral:
 
"Those who spoke drew tears, laughs and applause from mourners as they remembered Koch’s in-your-face chutzpah, endearing humor and charismatic leadership style.

[Former U.S. President Bill] Clinton recalled how Koch hated cigarettes and knew it would be hard to reach young people with anti-tobacco messages. So when [current NYC Mayor Michael] Bloomberg launched his ambitious campaign against smoking, Koch offered him some cheeky marketing advice.

“Go after the virility argument!’’ Koch said, according to Clinton.

Clinton said even when Koch was sick in recent weeks, the former mayor kept asking about the health of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who had been hospitalized over the after-effects of a concussion..."

Here's the entire article.
 
On a personal note:
 
Although I never met the man, I tried, unsuccessfully, to contact Ed Koch in the lead-up to my 2010 Journey for a Tobacco-Free World (which, by the way, ended in NYC).  If he had joined the many prominent endorsers of the run (at www.tobaccofreeworld.ca/endorsements ), that would have been very cool. 
 
Ed Koch was a true hero of the anti-tobacco movement...one of very few prominent politicians, anywhere, who had the guts to truly stand up to Big Tobacco (take note, Stephen Harper, Christie Clark, et al).
 
Our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Ed Koch.

Tobacco is a public health issue

A letter to the editor published in the Windsor Star, January 28, 2013:

Re: Just leave smokers alone, opinion column by Chris Vander Doelen, Jan. 23.

Wow, so much misdirected anger.

Regarding tobacco control, I’m no fan of government, especially the current federal one (contact me for some “juicy” info about Stephen Harper).

Chris is also angry toward anyone who “nags” or “nagged” him and his (former) fellow smokers, unaware of the distinction between loving, gentle persuasion and nagging.

So much anger but in the column, Chris blissfully ignores what should be every smokers’ primary target — big tobacco, which thrives primarily on its ability to hook and addict generation after generation of illegal/underage kids. Most tragically now, in developing nations, where big tobacco freely goes about its raping and pillaging, unfettered by pesky tobacco control laws.

Chris tells us that “government bureaucrats” and, presumably, anti-tobacco activists, are “addicted to a drug as insidious as nicotine: the self-satisfaction of telling others how to live.”

Tobacco is a public health issue that has nothing whatsoever to do with “telling others how to live” any more than drunk driving laws do.

It’s ironic and hilarious that after all of Chris’s whining about government, he says, “It was my resentment at the taxes that finally spurred me to quit.”

Higher prices are a huge factor in smokers quitting. Health care costs directly attributable to tobacco far outweigh tobacco tax revenues, so it’s a lose-lose proposition no matter how you look at it. The only ones getting rich are tobacco companies.

Finally, something Chris and I can agree on. He says, “You cannot defeat a chemical addiction simply by changing the delivery method” and that you’ve got to “starve the nicotine monster.”

Absolutely correct. But besides all addictive and deadly tobacco products, the real “nicotine monster” is big tobacco.

So, Chris supports my ultimate goal of putting big tobacco out of business, right?

ERROL E. POVAH, President
Airspace Action on Smoking and Health

Airspace weighs in on the "BC Crusade"

A letter to the editor published (with some editing) in the National Post on January 25, 2013:

I wish I could honestly say that Jesse Kline makes a powerful argument on behalf of his puppet masters at Big Tobacco, but I can't:  Invalid and illegitimate as any and all arguments condoning public smoking are, Kline's (in, B.C. crusade seeks more restrictions on outdoor smokers [Jan. 23]) definitely rank among the lamest, least eloquent and  most laughable.

Take, "Three decades ago, when smoking was commonplace in airports, bars and offices, it was almost inconceivable that these areas would one day be smoke free." for example.  Not so many decades ago, slavery was commonplace... and it was almost inconceivable that slavery would ever be eradicated too!

And then there's, "First it was elevators, then classrooms and workplaces..." (emphasis mine).  Can you imagine?  The nerve of "the tireless anti-smoking crusader" (or "anti-tobacco Nazi", as Bruce Allen calls us), wanting to breathe something other than the toxic, carcinogenic residue of somebody else's habit in an elevator!

That said, whether it's Kline's opinion or that of more eloquent and, presumably, better-paid puppets of Big Tobacco, like the Michael Siegel Kline quoted, they all conveniently overlook one minor detail:  Smoking is NOT addictive!

Nicotine is the most addictive drug on the planet, but smoking is nothing more than an albeit powerful habit.  With literally dozens of nicotine replacement therapies now available, there is no justification whatsoever for continuing to allow smoking in any public place, workplace or MUD (multi-unit dwelling, including apartments, condos, townhomes, etc.)... indoors or outdoors.

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

"Pink Shirt Day" again

With the utmost of respect for all victims of bullying...
 
I will wear a pink shirt (on Pink Shirt Day [Feb 27, 13] and every other day of the week) the day that the most high-profile cheer-leader of the anti-bullying movement -- B.C.'s very own premier, Christy Clark -- publicly acknowledges that her good friends at Big Tobacco are the biggest, meanest and nastiest corporate bullies on the planet.
 
What's the connection between Big Tobacco and the largest single group of bullying victims:  Teens and pre-teens?  So glad you asked.
 
The multi-billion dollar global tobacco industry survives and thrives based almost exclusively on its ability to hook and addict generation after generation of illegal/under-aged kids.  And child slavery continues to be a huge issue on tobacco plantations in many developing nations of the world.  Until Clark acknowledges those facts and turns her back on her old pals, her integrity and her sincerity -- whenever she speaks about anti-bullying and/or Pink Shirt Day -- must be questioned.

"New and Improved" smoking ban at Vancouver General Hospital

A story from Global TV's News Hour, November 30, 2012:

Link to Global TV page

A transcript appears below Airspace's commentary.

So often, when we see people smoking on TV, we don't see the entire face of the smoker...we see the lips (we see just enough of their faces to see the smouldering butt coming and going from their lips, often with a "Honest, I'm not really all that stupid!" smirk on their faces) and maybe part of the nose and chin. What I found rather unique and interesting about much of the video in this segment was that it featured so many smokers (2 women together [one of whom looked like staff], a man, then 2 individual women, one of whom, yet again, was smoking just a metre or two from a BC Cancer Agency [this time, the Fraser Valley Centre], then a man and a woman), at VGH...who seemed to be quite well aware that they were being filmed, but didn't give a damn.

The video portion also shows a big (roughly one square metre) 'sticker' on the ground, which repeats the highlighted part of the audio message, above...and features a roughtly one square foot No Smoking sign.  And there are sandwich boards that convey a similar message.
 
All in all, I'm only slightly impressed.  The stickers on the sidewalk will be trashed in no time...by people walking/cycling/rollerblading on them, the weather and, I'm predicting, a few ignorant smokers, who will, no doubt, put cigarette/bic/match burns into them, spit on them, draw swastikas on them, etc. (and Bruce Allen will no doubt be cheering them on).  In many smokers' minds, an inch or two of snow and ice, covering that sign, will automatically mean that the policy no longer applies.

Read more: "New and Improved" smoking ban at Vancouver General Hospital

Stephen Colbert chronicles “Smokers Rights”

A Daily Show story from December 18, 2003, before Colbert got his own show.

Money speaks louder than words

Blogger Norman Farrell: "While one arm of the BC's Liberal government is paying favourite law firms to plan legal action against the tobacco industry, in fiscal 2012, bcIMC, another arm of government, increased investment holdings in the merchants of death." Here's his article: Money speaks louder than words

BCIMC Holdings

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