Lowering the Tobacco Industry's reputation

Cartoon by Gable in Globe and MailA letter to the editor published in the Globe and Mail:

Funny as your Aug. 2 editorial cartoon was - likening tobacco executives to sewer rats - it truly is an example of art imitating life. Just a day earlier, after the $1.15-billion fine was imposed on Canada's two leading cigarette manufacturers, Imperial Tobacco spokeswoman Catherine Doyle told CTV, "We realize ... we're going to take a hit to our reputation because of this."

She should be fined another billion dollars by the irony police for that statement. When your industry pushes products that lead 45,000 Canadians to an early grave every year (according to Health Canada), what reputation do you have for anyone to hit?

Stan Shatenstein
Contributing Editor, Tobacco Control

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

Multinational cigarette companies nailed for $1.15 billion for smuggling

Imperial Tobacco Canada (actually BAT) and Rothmans Benson and Hedges have agreed to pay a total of more than $1-billion in fines and settlement costs for their corporate involvement in smuggling from 1989 to 1994. Article in the Globe and Mail:  Cigarette firms pay $1-billion in record fines, settlement (check out the comments)

The next question is, when will former PM Paul Martin and former RCMP Commissioner Norman Inkster face prosecution for their role in this?

Order of Canada given to tobacco industry executives

Editor, 24 Hours:

Controversial and difficult to define as the word "hero" always has been (it's both used too loosely and, even in well-earned/deserving cases, is often denied by the recipient), I've rarely associated it with either the Nobel Peace Prize or the Order of Canada.

In any case, if Alex G Tsakumis ("Morgentaler's hardly a hero", July 11) is seriously looking for people undeserving of either of the above-mentioned honours -- or the title "hero" -- he need look no further than Paule Gauthier, Doug Bassett and Pierre des Marais II.

"Who are they?", you're probably wondering. So glad you asked.

They're Canadian tobacco executives (See "Three mass tobacco murderers members of the Order of Canada" on calgaryeyeopener.com)... part of an industry that is directly responsible for more deaths (worldwide) EVERY 6 HOURS than all of the 9/11 attacks! Sort of makes you wonder who the real terrorists are, doesn't it?

All recipients -- at least those with a conscience -- should have returned their Orders of Canada the day the honour was bestowed upon those three murderous bastards!

Errol E. Povah

BAT lies again about sales of single cigarettes

British American Tobacco (BAT), the London-based multinational that sells Players, Du Maurier, and Matinee cigarettes in Canada, has once again been exposed as a liar on the subject of cigarette marketing and sales in the Third World; in this case, Nigeria, Malawi and Mauritius. The latest expose comes from Duncan Bannatyne of BBC News: Tobacco giant 'breaks youth code' (click here for a PDF version.)



The story documents BAT efforts to facilitate the sale of single cigarettes, and shows 11-year-olds purchasing these cigarettes. The spokesman for BAT in the story, Professional Liar Chris Proctor, states "If that was the case, that is disappointing, it's certainly not what we would wish to happen." Reporter Duncan Bannatyne says, "British American Tobacco is the unacceptable face of British business."

A very good week for Airspace

As stated previously on this site, a letter sent to all 305 Members of Parliament by Airspace president Errol Povah (in which he calls on the federal government to administer a billion-dollar buy-out fund/exit strategy (that won't cost tax-payers a cent) for about 1,500 Canadian tobacco farmers) was mentioned in the House of Commons -- in a very positive/supportive manner, by Southern Interior (B.C.) NDP MP Alex Atamanenko -- on Tuesday, June 10, 2008... the same day, by the way, that Povah returned from a major international anti-tobacco conference in Washington, DC.

Just three days later (yes, Friday the 13th), Airspace was once again mentioned in a rather prestigious setting: Attending his first Vancouver Board of Trade function, Povah -- and Airspace -- was formally welcomed as one of the newest members of the Board... on board the Holland America cruise ship, the MS Veendam.

The "dam ship" (as all 14 Dutch-named of the fleet are affectionately nick-named, since every one of their names [Amsterdam, Eurodam, Maasdam, etc.] ends with "dam") didn't go anywhere; we were securely tied up at the cruise ship terminal at Canada Place in downtown Vancouver!

It was an incredible 3.5 hours; in addition to a lot of very valuable networking, the group of about 70 Board of Trade members and guests did a little self-guided tour of the ship and enjoyed an awesome lunch, then listened to a very inspirational and motivational speech (about giving back to the community, etc.) by Peter Legge... who has, among many other things, played a major role in raising tens of millions of dollars for GlobalTV B.C.'s Variety Club Telethon over the years, etc.

After Legge's speech, the MC welcomed Airspace and a couple of other new members. Much to Povah's chagrin, nobody from Imperial Tobacco -- also a member of the Board -- stood up and objected to Airspace's membership.

In addition to networking and furthering Airspace's agenda (ultimately, the total eradication of the tobacco industry from the face of the planet), Povah will be lobbying the Board to give Imperial Tobacco the boot: Tobacco companies are not "good corporate citizens" -- and have no place whatsoever in an organization like the Vancouver Board of Trade -- no matter what kind of spin they put on their sleazy, despicable and murderous business.

Airspace turns up in the Hansard

From a speech by Alex Atamanenko (BC Southern Interior-NDP) on June 10, 2008:

I have before me a motion that was passed in the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, which called upon the federal government to immediately implement an exit strategy for tobacco producers consistent with the most recent proposal they had submitted and that it be reported to the House. What is interesting is that the motion passed, but the members of the government voted against it. I cannot quite understand it. Members of the governing party are in agreement with most people and they are saying that some kind of an exit strategy is needed, yet when it comes to a vote in the committee, some kind of directions are received that they have to vote against it. That does not make sense to me.

I have a letter written by a gentleman by the name of Errol Povah, president of Airspace Action on Smoking and Health, addressed to the Conservative member of Parliament for Delta-Richmond East, in which he asks the government to do what is right for tobacco farmers. Copies of this letter were sent to 305 MPs.

Once the industry is not viable and people have invested in it, we have an obligation not only financially, but morally to ensure that these folks have some kind of an exit strategy. I must emphasize once again that we are not saying that they need X number of dollars from government and we have to help them out. What I and others are saying is we need a lead on this from the federal government.

Public sector pension funds invested in tobacco companies

BC Premier Gordon Campbell has a record of friendliness to the tobacco industry that dates back to his time as Mayor of Vancouver. An article in the Vancouver Sun by Gordon Keast reveals that the British Columbia Investment Management Corp., a Crown corporation, has invested government assets in Phillip Morris, Imperial Tobacco, Reynolds American, Rothman's, and Japan Tobacco. Here's the article: Dancing with the devil.

Health Canada, Stephen Harper, and protection of consumers

A letter to Health Canada:

I've been following the news very closely lately... and was absolutely delighted when I read an April 9 Vancouver Sun article entitled, "LEGISLATION PROTECTS CONSUMERS", in which Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a warning to companies "that care more about their profits than their customers." He said such companies will face "severe" punishment... and so they should!

One week later, I heard about the big concern over bishpenol A in plastics... and, within a matter of days, such plastics were being recalled and hauled off of store shelves... by the truckload!

My question has to do with tobacco and, more specifically, the predatory and rogue -- if not criminal -- tobacco industry.

Tobacco -- WHEN USED EXACTLY AS INTENDED BY THE MANUFACTURER -- kills 45,000 Canadians, each and every year. Despite "Reduced Ignition Propensity" (which makes such an appropriate acronym in the context of tobacco/smoking) laws, cigarette-ignited fires continue to be the leading cause of fire fatalities in this country! And tobacco-related litter (cigarette butts, spent matches and lighters, cigarette packages, inserts, cellophane wrappers, empty chewing tobacco cans, etc.) continues to be the leading form of litter, by far!

I recently sent the following letter to the editor of the Globe & Mail newspaper:

While I fully support the federal government's "better safe than sorry" stand on bisphenol A in plastics (April 19, front page), I have to wonder, especially in light of Stephen Harper's recent announcement about new legislation to protect consumers from companies "who care more about the almighty dollar than the safety of their customers": When will all tobacco products be taken off the shelves?

I look forward to your earliest possible response.

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

An opportunity for investigative reporters

This is, to start with, a "good news" story. A court in Quebec ruled in favour of Olesia Koretski, a landlord who had a problem with a smoking tenant.

The case was actually pretty cut and dried. The words "no smokers" were clearly visible on a form filled out by the tenant as part of the lease application, but the tenant proceeded to smoke pretty much non-stop after moving in on August 1, 2006.

You can read a story about this by Jan Ravensbergen in the Montreal Gazette here: Final bell sounds in smoking battle. This article, however, leaves an important issue unresolved: Who paid for the legal costs of the tenant, Sandra Fowler?

The article mentioned mychoice.ca and its tobacco-industry-appointed President, Arminda Mota. It also mentioned that mychoice.ca was funded with $2.5 million from the tobacco industry (a lot of money for a web site), but didn't mention that the tobacco industry is the sole source of funding for mychoice.ca.

Most important, neither Mota, Fowler, or anyone in the tobacco industry was willing to confirm or deny whether the tobacco industry paid Ms. Fowler's legal expenses.

The public, especially members of the public who are landlords, need to know this. If landlords run the risk of going up against the tobacco industry every time they rent an apartment to someone, it becomes "the cost of doing business". And asthmatic and pregnant women such as Ms. Koretski have the right to know that the tobacco industry regards them as targets.

So, if you're an investigative reporter, make some phone calls. You might have better luck with getting answers than Jan Ravensbergen did.

We knew this already

In an article by Anne Sutherland in the March 20, 2008 Montreal Gazette, Florent Gravel, president of the Association des detaillants en alimentation du Quebec, said that because of new regulations restricting the display of tobacco products in retail outlets (similar restrictions go into effect in BC at the end of March), retailers will lose the product-placement fees they receive from the tobacco companies for preferential display of their wares. According to Gravel, this ranges from $3,000 to $7,000 per year depending on the size of the store and the size of the display.

You read this correctly: until now, the tobacco industry has been paying bribes to retailers.

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