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."

Airspace once again outraged by tobacco-friendly BC Liberals

The president of Airspace Action on Smoking and Health is slamming the B.C. government for yet another tobacco-friendly decision.

On Friday, January 16, 2009, this report was aired on CKNW. It is available at http://www.cknw.com in the Audio Vault, beginning at 8:06 a.m. (G = News anchor Bill GOOD, L = Reporter Sean LESLIE and P = MLA Mary POLLACK):

G - The Campbell government does not intend to ban tobacco sales in drug stores, despite calls from a national doctors group. Sean Leslie reports.

L - Physicians for a Smoke-free Canada says B.C. is one of only three provinces[/territories] that still allows tobacco sales in pharmacies. But Minister for Healthy Living Mary Pollack isn't worried, saying B.C.'s smoking rate is already the lowest in the country, at under 15%.

P - It isn't a matter of lining up with other provinces in terms of every item being the same. Provinces have all sorts of different strategies. We know ours has been successful...and this would be one more piece to look at, but not something we're considering in the immediate [future].

L - Pollack says the government may ask pharmacies to distribute information on quitting along with tobacco products. Sean Leslie, CKNW Newstalk 980, Victoria.

Povah said, "Pollack's response to PSC's call is disgusting but, given the B.C. Liberals' tobacco control record, not at all surprising."

Read more: Airspace once again outraged by tobacco-friendly BC Liberals

BC NDP calls for stricter regulation of cigarillos

A press release from the B.C. New Democratic Party:

Victoria – New Democrat health critic Adrian Dix is calling on the Campbell government to implement stricter regulation of cigarillos, including the banning of flavouring and the sale of singles.

Physicians for a Smoke Free Canada have said that cigarillos are the new cigarettes for kids,” said Dix. “Despite having similar health risks, cigarillos are not regulated in the same way. For example, cigarillos can be sold in singles and the packaging is not required to carry health warnings. It is time for that to change.

“The various flavours available, including chocolate and raspberry, make cigarillos attractive to youth,” said Dix. “They are also sold individually, making them more affordable. In fact, they are comparable in price with candy bars and soda pop.”

Dix will introduce a Private Members’ Bill in the next legislative session to make cigarillos less attractive for youth by banning flavouring agents and prohibiting them from being sold in packages of less than 20.

Dix also wants to ensure that cigarillos include the same health information, health warnings and toxic constituent information that are on cigarette packages.

According to Health Canada, young Canadians use cigarillos at three times the rate of adults. “This is clearly a youth phenomena, and the way the product is being marketed reflects that,” said Dix.

“We all know the risks associated with smoking,” said Dix. “Tobacco products should not be allowed to mask their harmfulness in tasty flavours and attractive packaging. If we are really committed to keeping youth away from smoking, then including cigarillos as a fully regulated tobacco product makes sense.”


Click here for a backgrounder from the NDP.

CKNW Orphans' Fund

It's Friday, Dec 5, 2008... and Airspace Action on Smoking and Health president Errol Povah has pledged $20 to the 31st annual CKNW Orphans' Fund Pledge Day (virtually all regular programming on CKNW has been pre-empted by the fundraiser).

Povah challenges all of those good corporate citizens at the tobacco industry to meet or beat his pledge, and do something for the orphans you've created.

Despite the industry's best efforts to maintain a very low snake-in-the-grass profile, the industry does have offices in the Greater Vancouver area (Imperial Tobacco [makers of Players and du Maurier] is in Delta, while Rothmans Benson & Hedges [now owned by Philip Morris International] is in Richmond).

We all know that the tobacco industry loves kids...both teens and pre-teens. Kids are the very lifeblood of the tobacco industry; without kids, the tobacco industry would be out of business in very short order.

So come on Benjamin Kemball (pres and CEO, Imperial Tobacco)... Catherine Doyle, Karen Bodirsky, and David McCullach (Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers' Council)... Arminda Mota (pres, smokers' rights group mychoice.ca)... et al. Show the world how much you 'appreciate' kids, get your wallets out, pull out some blood-stained cash and contribute to this very worthwhile cause.

Tenant seeks injunction to stop neighbour smoking

Article by Keith Fraser in The Province: Tenant seeks injunction to stop neighbour smoking, or click here for a PDF.

Mina Erian Mina, a retired actor living in Vancouver's West End, has suffered various health problems, including respiratory injuries, bronchospasm, reduced chest expansion, chest tightness, aggravation of coronary artery disease, loss of sleep, fatigue and anxiety due to a smoking neighbour.

How to get away with smuggling

Article by William Marsden for the Center for Public Integrity: How To Get Away With Smuggling: Canada’s Billion-Dollar Deal for Big Tobacco, or click here for a PDF of the article.

"The police could’ve walked in and handcuffed everybody at Imperial Tobacco. But the government didn’t have the guts of a field mouse." — Paul Finlayson, former Imasco executive

More "disenchanted" than ever!

I've never been quite as disenchanted with "mainstream" political parties as I am this time around.

Over the last 3 decades, I've very actively campaigned (as a volunteer) on behalf of City Councillors, MLAs and MPs of all political stripes, depending mostly on their individual and/or party platforms. Okay, there's one exception to that rule: I've never worked for the Liberals, provincially or federally. Why? Simple: The Liberals are very commonly referred to as "the tobacco party." Just a couple of quick examples: Former Finance Minister [and Prime Minister] Paul Martin is a former tobacco executive...and virtually nothing was achieved in terms of tobacco control measures during his watch. Provincially, one of the first major actions of the B.C. Liberals (shortly after they were first elected, in 2001) was to gut the WCB No Smoking regulation, rendering it virtually useless (certainly for bar and pub workers). That 'gutting' was NOT part of their pre-election platform, nor did they have any mandate whatsoever to do it, but they did it...and, presumably, were well paid for it! And so-called Health Minister Colin Hansen stood by and said/did nothing!

Fast forward to 2008: A few short weeks ago, Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper called an election, breaking a promise -- and legislation -- regarding fixed election dates...notwithstanding little technicalities/loopholes (where would governments be without those?) about the law only applying to majority governments...or whatever.

Read more: More "disenchanted" than ever!

Conservatives give pre-election gift to tobacco industry

According to Paul Finlayson, a retired Imasco executive, the recent settlement agreement between the Government and the tobacco industry was "chump change"; the $600 million paid by BAT/Imperial Tobacco insignificant compared to the $600 million to $700 million per year that BAT/Imperial Tobacco made from smuggling in the late 1980's and early 1990's.

Article by William Marsden in the Vancouver Sun: Ottawa caved in to big tobacco, former Imasco executive says

Where there’s smoke

Letter to the editor published in the South Delta Leader:

Dear Editor, thank you for your Aug. 22 ‘Readerpoll’ question: “Has the recent car fire aboard a B.C. Ferry made you question the service’s safety?”

As a 30-year B.C. Ferry employee (currently a Second Officer), I would suggest that there’s no need to question the service’s safety, certainly not as a result of this particular fire, or the majority of shipboard fires, for that matter. The crews are very well-trained to deal with any and all emergencies, including those (fires, and, if they get out of control, abandon ship procedures) which result from the use of a product which management refuses to take seriously and address effectively.

Whether or not the Aug. 15 fire was caused by a smouldering cigarette (personally, I’m not aware of any mattress that has ever spontaneously combusted), cigarette-ignited fires are the leading cause of shipboard fires, yet B.C. Ferry Services stubbornly refuses to ban smoking, entirely, aboard all B.C. Ferry vessels and on the terminals, as our neighbours to the south—Washington State Ferries (WSF)—successfully did years ago. In fact, despite my suggestions to do so, nobody from BCFS has even bothered to pick up a telephone and call WSF and discuss any and all concerns BCFS may have about implementing such a ban—and how WSF dealt with those issues!

BCFS’s justification for not banning smoking, entirely? Two extremely weak/false arguments: 1) We’re a public transportation system, and we have to cater to/accommodate all of our passengers; and 2) How would such a ban ever be enforced?

BCFS could—if “safety” truly was its number one priority—in conjunction with a complete smoking ban, provide one or more of the dozens of nicotine replacement therapies (nicotine gum, lozenges, rubs, inhalers, etc.). Problem solved: Smokers get their hit of nicotine and all the rest of us enjoy a smoke-free environment, indoors and out, with a dramatically-reduced risk of fire!

To the second argument: the “enforcement” red herring has been raised prior to each and every smoking ban that has ever occurred; most notably, bar and pub smoking bans. And, in each and every case, it turns out that enforcement is not an issue at all (since the vast majority of smokers are good, law-abiding citizens, assuming, of course, that the law is well-advertised, clearly posted, etc.), yet “enforcement” continues to be one of the most persistent tobacco industry-perpetuated “doom and gloom” myths associated with smoking bans.

Tragically, terrorism is a very real threat nowadays, 2010 is fast approaching and barbed-wire fencing is now being installed at BCFS terminals. If recent history is any indication, I think smoking on board ferries is a much bigger threat than terrorism ever will be. And if enforcement of the No Smoking law means arresting, charging, fining and/or jailing smokers, as has been done on many occasions on airlines), then so be it.

And, speaking of terrorism: smoking kills more people worldwide every six hours than were killed in all of the 9/11 attacks. Sort of makes you wonder who the real terrorists are, doesn’t it?

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

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