On May 5, 2008, members of Airspace Action on Smoking and Health protested a Joe Jackson concert, held at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts at the University of British Columbia.
Why was Airspace protesting this event? So glad you asked.
We learned about Joe Jackson and his "allegiance" to the tobacco industry a few months ago. At that time, Airspace president Errol Povah attempted to contact singer/songwriter Jackson (via his website), to challenge him to a public debate on any and all aspects of smoking/tobacco control. While Povah didn't get through to Jackson, directly, one of Jackson's reps did the talking for him... and made it clear that Jackson had neither the time nor the energy -- nor the inclination -- to debate the issue, "now or ever." We urge you to check out Jackson's website -- www.joejackson.com -- and click on the "SMOKING" link at the top of the home page. As you will see, Joe is not just your average, run-of-the-mill smoker; he's clearly a puppet of the tobacco industry. He denies getting paid by the tobacco industry; we have no way of proving otherwise, but obviously, we have our doubts about that. In any case, whether Jackson likes it or not, he's a celebrity and a role model... and as such, he should be ashamed of himself for so aggressively promoting such an addictive, disease-causing, debilitating and deadly product...the only legal product which kills when used exactly as intended by the manufacturer!
As we stated in our hand-out -- or "Program!" as we called it -- we didn't seriously expect any Joe Jackson fans to, after reading our material, change their minds about going to the concert... and leave. But we do encourage everyone to think about the issue... and Jackson's role in promoting a product which is, ultimately, responsible for one of the biggest drains on our "in-crisis" health-care system.
Here's an e-mail we got from one now-former Joe Jackson fan:
I attended the concert in Vancouver, last nite... had I been aware of Joe's position on smoking, I would not have attended. There can be no excuse for supporting this vile and sickening addiction. I'm thankful to Vancouver Airspace for enlightening me on Joe's position ... I will not buy any of his music until he comes clean.
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
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.
You read this correctly: until now, the tobacco industry has been paying bribes to retailers.
The last known mouthpiece for the rogue industry front group was vice-president Dave Laundy who, virtually every time he opened his mouth, described governments (provincial and federal) as "the tobacco industry's senior partner." That remark is based on the fact that most of the price of a package of cigarettes is taxes... the clear implication being that governments are making more money from the sale of tobacco than the industry itself. However, Laundy very conveniently overlooked one minor detail: Those same governments -- or, more specifically, you, I and every other taxpayer -- are stuck with the horrendous health-care costs directly attributable to smoking... costs which far outweigh the above-mentioned tax revenues.
Are you sure, John?
In November of 2007, NDP MLA Leonard Krog tabled a private members' bill calling for a ban on smoking in vehicles carrying children. Your response at that time was, "British Columbians aren't ready for such a ban."
Three short months later, via the recent Throne Speech, we learned that the B.C. Liberals now support such a ban, although we're still patiently waiting to hear critical details...i.e., the maximum age of a 'child' (16? 18? 19?), the implementation date, penalties for violations, etc. By the way, in terms of enforcement, this ban could easily be enforced in conjunction with existing police duties/policies (routine traffic stops, etc.)... especially seatbelt checks.
On February 12, 2007, I issued a call for the total eradication of the tobacco industry from the face of the planet.
In addition to being the top story on the homepage of the Airspace website, press releases were sent out, worldwide. I also repeated the call on several subsequent radio talk shows...and in [published] letters to the editor, etc.
The response: Literally dozens of good, positive and supportive comments...to ZERO negative comments.
In addition, I issued a challenge, to anyone, to debate any and all tobacco control issues, up to and including the total eradication of the tobacco industry. Again, ZERO response!
One would think that our detractors -- including the tobacco industry itself, as well as its many well-paid puppets -- would be chomping at the bit to debate the issue, but not a peep out of any of them! So I decided to issue a few personal challenges. The list of detractors I contacted, directly, is long and...well, not terribly distinguished (in fact, extinguished is much more appropriate). Just a few of the more high-profile tobacco whores I contacted and challenged to debate:
- Nancy Daigneault, former president of mychoice.ca, Canada's biggest "smokers' rights" group, established and funded -- to the tune of at least $2.5 million (that we know about) -- by Imperial Tobacco. Despite initially claiming that she was ready, willing and able to debate the issue with anyone, anywhere and any time, over a period of several months, her office claimed she was "too busy", then she had a child, then she was just "too busy"...again...and again...and again!;