Deafening silence from the opposition: we must be on the right track

For almost a year and a half (Aug, 2008 to Jan, 2010), Airspace Action on Smoking and Health conducted a poll on its website: “Do you support Airspace’s call for the total eradication of the tobacco industry from the face of the planet?”

Of the two possible responses (YES or NO) – and with all due respect (and thanks!) to the 76 people who voted “YES” – Airspace President Errol E. Povah wasn’t terribly interested in ‘the reasons’ for the YES votes. Why? Because those ‘reasons’ most likely would have been something like, “It’s the ‘decent’/’common sense’/’right’ thing to do... and it’s long overdue!” Or the comments probably would have, in one way or another, reflected the statement on which our call -- for the total eradication of the tobacco industry from the face of the planet – was and is based: Given what is now known about both tobacco and the tobacco industry, there is no justification whatsoever for any civilized nation fo the world to allow that industry to continue to exist or operate within its borders.

However, Povah was – and still is – extremely interested in hearing ‘reasons’ from those 105 people who oppose the eradication idea.

Frankly, the only people we can think of who might oppo$e the idea are tobacco executive$ and the $mall army of well-paid puppet$ (including $ome of the be$t politician$ and lawyer$ money can buy [former Prime Mini$ter Paul Martin being one of the be$t example$]) the tobacco indu$try own$. The rea$on$ for their oppo$ition $hould be very obviou$!

This invitation is open indefinitely... to those 105 poll responders and anyone else.

To be clear: It’s a free country! It would be naive in the extreme for us to think that everyone should agree with us! You have every right to disagree with us... and to oppose our call for the total eradication of the tobacco industry from the face of the planet. But please, have the courage to tell us, in your own words, exactly why you oppose the idea. While you’re at it, perhaps you could tell us something good about either tobacco or the tobacco industry.

Click here to send us your response.

VANOC says "jump", health officials ask "how high?"

The 2010 Olympics were advertised as being "sustainable". They aren't. They were also advertised as "smoke free", and this has turned out to be false, as well. A letter to the editor of The Province:

What a great suggestion by The Province - let's do away with designated smoking areas for 17 days, because some coaches and officials smoke.

Well why stop there? Is it really reasonable to expect these busy, important people, our guests, to always drive sober or to pull over to the side of the road to text message or make a phone call just because a few retentive, fun-crushing individuals have made that law to save a few insignificant lives? Let's review all our laws and suspend any that may prove inconvenient for coaches and officials for 17 days. It won't kill anyone if The Province says it won't.

Yes this is an event for which athletes have spent years adhering to careful fitness regimens to do the best they can in representing their country. Yes there are a few thousand people who have saved for years and gone to all kinds of trouble to attend and support these games or volunteer at them, people who maybe care about their health or perhaps have respiratory or cardiac disabilities. Blah blah blah. The Olympics aren't about any of them.

What is really important is the few who have chosen to become smokers must under no circumstances be in any way inconvenienced, because they are the only ones who matter. Far better that athletes compete for a chance at glory in a haze of secondhand smoke, asthmatics be hospitalized and risk long-term respiratory complications, and a few people with weak hearts die than that a handful of smokers be required to find a smoke-free way to get their nicotine hit.

Nice values, Province. Reminds me of the joke about how a smoker changes a light bulb - he holds the bulb in place and waits for the world to revolve around him. Don't you have anyone with a clearer grasp of the concept (and of the medical significance of breathing) to write your editorials?

If we can, without fear of causing an international incident, ban bringing dangerous objects like bananas and cheese sandwiches into venues on the grounds that they might explode, I think we may safely send smokers, with their lighters and matches, to designated outdoor areas well away from athletes, volunteers, and supporters - where they belong - without fear for our city's reputation.

Sera Kirk
Vancouver, BC

Story in The Province: Olympics no longer 'smoke-free'

Tobacco trade show fined for cigarette advertising

The organizers of Tabinfo Asia, the effort to promote tobacco in the Third World attended by the Grim Reaper, was fined for displaying images of cigarette brands and logos. Story in The Nation: Organiser fined over cigarette ads at tobacco exhibition

WOW!!! A Remembrance Day I'll Never Forget

Protest against Tabexpo 2009or, The Thai Anti-Tobacco Movement ROCKS. BIG TIME!

Until today, the biggest anti-tobacco protest (and I mean 'protest', as opposed to convention/conference) I'd ever attended was in Washington DC about 3 years ago. Of the 5,000 attendees at the 13th World Conference on Tobacco OR Health, about 200 of us marched through the streets of DC (with a large police escort) to the White House, where we demanded (that's right, we demanded, dammit!) the US take serious action against tobacco, including long overdue ratification of the FCTC (which, as far as I know, still has not been done). In any case, that whole trip -- the conference, the protest, the networking, etc. -- was incredible, BUT...

I just got 'home' from the biggest, best and most powerful anti-tobacco protest ever! And when I say 'powerful': If we're talkin' earthquakes, all previous protests (great as they've ALL been), have been 'minor tremors', barely registering on the Richter scale...and hardly noticeable by anyone, especially the tobacco industry (TI).

But this one rocked those bastards... and has triggered a tsunami that just might, with any luck at all, wipe them out!

In typical 'Errol' fashion, I was late getting to the protest site this morning. With many curious onlookers (including hotel staff), I loaded the Grim Reaper costume, the SICKARET and 3 placards into a taxi for the 5-minute drive to the convention centre (BKKCC). With the temperature in the mid to high 80s (yes, fahrenheit) and very high humidity, I'm hoping an Arctic front will blow in. No such luck.

Having scouted out the BKKCC area a couple of days earlier, I knew exactly where to go. And besides, I'd been reminded that, with 150 - 500 people protesting, I couldn't possibly miss it. Well, I missed it!

Not seeing any sign at all of a protest, I got the cabbie (who spoke virtually no English) to pull over. A security guard approached and, seeing my gear (especially the SICKARET) in the back seat, asked an unspoken question by putting his hand to his mouth in a smoking gesture. I said yes. He pointed and, in Thai, told the cabbie where to go, as it were.

A couple of blocks further and I see about 100 people (mostly highschool-aged kids) on the sidewalk... some in costumes (including less-elaborate [if I may be so bold] Grim Reapers, cigarettes, etc.), most carrying placards (in English and Thai)...and ALL wearing very cool t-shirts that say, "TOBACCO KILLS!" in big bold letters on the front and "5,400,000" (plus some other text) on the back. And there are at least 2, maybe 3 dozen helmet-wearing police officers. And I'm thinkin', "This is cool!"

Read more: WOW!!! A Remembrance Day I'll Never Forget

Langley tenants fight in-suite strata smokers

Article by Charlie Smith in the Georgia Straight: Langley tenants fight in-suite strata smokers

Excerpt: "The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has declined to dismiss a complaint by a Langley couple who object to their neighbours’ smoking. This is the second time in two years that the tribunal has refused to dismiss a complaint of this nature.

"Paul and Rose Kabatoff, who own their suite, alleged to the tribunal that Strata Corporation Plan NW 2767 discriminated against them on the basis of physical disability. According to an October 13 preliminary decision by tribunal member Marlene Tyshynski, they both suffer from respiratory illnesses and allergies that are exacerbated by secondhand smoke."

Uncovering the science that Imperial Tobacco Canada sought to conceal

In 1992, British American Tobacco had its Canadian affiliate, Imperial Tobacco Canada, destroy internal research documents that could expose the company to liability or embarrassment.

Here's the abstract of a paper published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal by David Hammond, Michael Chaiton, Alex Lee, and Neil Collishaw: Destroyed documents: uncovering the science that Imperial Tobacco Canada sought to conceal. The abstract contains a link to the full article.

This is about research that was funded by the tobacco industry. Two of their conclusions:

  • Second-hand smoke is, in fact, more toxic than mainstream smoke, especially for low-delivery cigarettes.
  • People smoking filtered cigarettes inhaled more smoke to get about the same amount of nicotine they'd get from unfiltered.

Another professional liar funded by Philip Morris

From Crooks and Liars: Rolling Stone Finds A Smoking Gun: Betsy McCaughey Lied About Healthcare Reform For Tobacco Lobby

Original Rolling Stone article: The Lie Machine

No British Columbia or Canadian content. It shouldn't come as any surprise that the biggest enemy of health on the planet would oppose universal access to health care in the United States.

Cigarette litter is the main source of Canadian marine debris

An Airspace response to a story by Jessica Hinds in the Vancouver Sun: Too many butting out on coasts:

I have a comment, a little-known -- and rather disturbing -- fact and a couple of questions:

  • The headline implies that "butting out" is bad when, in fact, it's a good thing. Perhaps a more accurate headline would have been, "Too many smokers litter coasts." Yes, there are a couple of ways to interpret that too but...;
  • A major sponsor of the Ocean Conservancy is Philip Morris, one of the biggest tobacco companies in the world. When I called OC to express my outrage, I was told that PM recognizes that their products wind up being the leading form of litter, by far...and that PM simply wants to do its part to help with the clean up. If PM was sincere, at the very least, it would print anti-litter messages on its packages. At best, it would get out of the tobacco business entirely; and
  • - Why do bylaw enforcement officers and police turn a blind eye to smokers who litter (most often still-smoldering butts), especially during hot and dry summers? Why are our highways littered with signs warning of a $2000 fine for littering, when nobody is ever charged?

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

What's stopping a cigarette crackdown?

The National Post published this piece by Benjamin Kemball, President and CEO of Imperial Tobacco Canada (actually British American Tobacco): What's stopping cigarette crackdown?. It's an unpaid ad from the tobacco industry, and contains the following: "We have asked for a national task force to co-ordinate government strategies and law enforcement agencies to effectively attack this multifaceted crime that profoundly affects so many different Canadian communities. In particular, we urge the government to involve the First Nations' leadership to find sustainable solutions for all.

"We believe this trade must be stopped and we have offered our full resources to government to help in this fight."

Thanks, but no thanks for the offer of your "full resources", Mr. Kemball. Here's a response from Stan Shatenstein, which the National Post did not get around to publishing:

Benjamin Kemball, president and CEO of Imperial Tobacco Canada (ITC) would have us believe that concern over smuggling has his company "on the same side of an issue" as the tobacco control community. Hardly! Both sides want the smuggling to end, yes, but the tobacco control community cares about public health while ITC's interest is its own bottom line.

The tobacco industry may not be the driving force behind the current wave of illicit sales, but let's not forget that barely a decade ago, Kemball's predecessor as Imperial CEO, Don Brown, stated on record that, since smuggling was occurring anyway, ITC would profit from it. He said in a memo, "until the smuggling issue is resolved, an increasing volume of our domestic sales in Canada will be exported, then smuggled back for sale here." And executives from rival firm JTI-Macdonald were found guilty of active participation in smuggling.

Kemball repeats the weary industry canard that tobacco products are "heavily regulated." If toasters killed some 40,000 Canadians every year, we wouldn't just stick warning labels on them. They'd be off the market. There are other ways to get golden brown bagels. But we can't ban products to which five million Canadians are sadly addicted. The current level of regulation is entirely inadequate given the monumental task at hand. We need heavily-taxed cigarettes in plain packages and a robust denormalization programme from the federal and provincial governments.

The tobacco industry can be part of the solution when it comes to the smuggling issue but, when thinking of the health of Canadians in totality, ITC, JTI and Rothmans Benson & Hedges are far more the source of the problem than anything else. How and where products are sold is important, but the critical issue is the deadliness of the product itself. Whither Mr. Kemball's concern about that? Why does he battle the tobacco control community on this more central concern? What does he really care about?

Stan Shatenstein
Contributing Editor,
Tobacco Control

Human rights complaint over smoking in public housing

Story by Gerry Bellett in the Vancouver Sun: Second-hand smoke raises residents' ire. (Or click here to view a PDF of the article.)

Excerpt: "Thirteen residents of Surrey's Kiwanis Park Place in Crescent Beach have filed a human rights complaint, alleging they are being discriminated against by being exposed to second-hand smoke from other tenants.

"The residents are suing the Kiwanis Club of White Rock along with the Crescent Housing Society -- which operates the 257-suite building -- as well as BC Housing and provincial government ministries."

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