The media tends to under-report stories about fires started by cigarette smoking, but somebody forgot to tell the Edmonton Sun. They ran a story on October 4, 2007 with the title Smoke leads to fire.

The case of Philippa Byfield is the most recent of the six fires documented here. She was a 51-year-old terminal cancer patient, and hastened her death by attempting to light a cigarette while connected to an oxygen machine. In the process, she burned down a $1.5 million home belonging to her father, Ted Byfield.

Ted Byfield and Link Byfield (Philippa's brother) were the publishers of Alberta Report and a sister publication, BC Report. Their publishing operation went defunct in 2003. During the period when Vancouver and Burnaby adopted no-smoking bylaws, and the WCB attempted to restrict smoking in workplaces throughout BC, the Byfields, along with writer Derek DeCloet, consistently followed the tobacco industry party line on smoking. Among other things, they ran headlines claiming that restrictions on second-hand smoke were based on "faulty science" (Nov. 10, 1997). Some more random examples:

  • Full-page ad from "Canada's Major Tobacco Manufacturers" (Dec. 14, 1998)

  • "If the WHO has its way (by reducing exposure to second-hand smoke), however, Mexico and other developing countries will soon become less civilized." (Feb. 22, 1999)

  • Bylaw enforcement employees in Victoria characterized as "ashtray cops". (March 22, 1999)

The Edmonton Sun article says that Link Byfield declined comment on the cause of the fire. That's unfortunate; I would like to hear his and Ted's opinion on whether Philippa's smoking habit was worth it.

This letter to the editor was published (in a slightly edited form) in the Vancouver Sun on July 16, 2007:

"China the leading source of recalled products" (July 9) raises the question, "When will China itself, as well as Canada, the U.S. and all other supposedly 'civilized nations' of the world begin to recall the most defective, disease-causing, debilitating and deadly product of all?

It maims and kills more people than alcohol (including drunk driving), crack, cocaine, heroin, AIDS, homicide, suicide, car accidents and fires, plus all of the 431 Chinese-made products that have been recalled in Canada since 2005...COMBINED!!!

It's a product which, when used exactly as intended by the manufacturer, currently kills about 5 million people a year. And that figure is expected to double over the next 12 years.

Amazingly, about 65 per cent of all men in China use the product, including 60% of male doctors there.

The product: Tobacco.

Please, join Airspace Action on Smoking and Health -- Canada's leading all-volunteer anti-tobacco organization -- in its efforts to, ultimately, totally eradicate the tobacco industry from the face of the planet.

Feel free to laugh at us and say, "It'll never happen!"

We've heard that virtually every step of the way...most notably, just prior to smoking bans in grocery stores, on airlines, in restaurants and bars and, most recently, in multi-unit dwellings (apartments, condos, duplexes, etc.), as well as in parks, on beaches, etc....and, quite frankly, hearing that just inspires us all the more.

Errol E. Povah
Delta, BC

The May 3 and May 10 issues of the Georgia Straight contained ads for “Skoal Long Cut Citrus smokeless tobacco”.

This is a flavoured snuff product. Why flavoured? Because snuff is tobacco that is consumed by putting it in your mouth. Tobacco is a toxic substance, and the natural reaction of anyone who attempts to consume snuff for the first time is to spit it out. Quickly. Giving a cherry or citrus flavour to snuff greatly increases the odds that a snuff user, especially a child, will try it more than once.

Snuff is at least as toxic as cigarettes. Usage of it is not as socially unacceptable as cigarettes, mainly because people who use it don’t make the entire room smell like dead animals. They still get those yellow teeth, though. The tobacco industry would very much like to sell the idea of an alternative nicotine delivery system, and they have a willing accomplice in the Georgia Straight.

The Georgia Straight has a long history of taking the tobacco industry’s money. During the 1990's, when the tobacco industry used sponsorships of motor racing, fashion shows, golf, tennis, jazz concerts, and fireworks displays to evade restrictions on cigarette advertising, the pages of the Georgia Straight were littered with ads for these “products”.During 1996 and 1997, when earlier restrictions on cigarette advertising imposed by Parliament were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, advertisements for “Canadian Classics” cigarettes appeared weekly in the Georgia Straight.

Airspace Action on Smoking and Health has a long history of opposition to flavoured snuff products. We managed to get a private member’s bill introduced in the Legislative Assembly that would have outlawed the sale of such products in British Columbia. It’s time to re-visit this idea.

Airspace press release

Anti-tobacco group says, "Enough is enough!"

Vancouver, BC - Airspace Action on Smoking & Health, Canada's leading all-volunteer anti-tobacco organization, is calling on governments of the world to unite in a global effort to completely eradicate the multi-billion dollar, multi-national tobacco industry from the face of the planet.

"It's time to take off the kid gloves - and we're proud to be the first major anti-tobacco organization to call for this eradication - a call which will likely be met with some skepticism and opposition, even within the mainstream anti-tobacco movement," said the group's president, Errol Povah.

On this, the 10th anniversary of my "Mischief Under $5000"/"billboard bombing" trial (the trial transcript can be found on this site: The Crown vs. Errol Eric Povah), I find myself in complete awe of both 1) how much progress the anti-tobacco movement has made in ten short years and 2) despite the aforementioned progress, how much still needs to be done, as the malignant cancer (that is the nicotine cartel {formerly known as the tobacco industry]) continues to spread and grow, especially in Third World countries.

And, like all cancers, the nicotine cartel itself must be eradicated! That's right, eradicated!

As I said in my statement to the court, near the end of my trial 10 years ago (quoting a doctor with the World Health Organization [WHO]): "There can never be a peaceful co-existence between the tobacco industry and the world health community." One of them has to go... and let me assure you, the world health community isn't going anywhere.

Tempting as it is to use another word that starts with "i"... A very small group of "individuals" recently protested outside an anti-tobacco conference in Niagara Falls, at which the topic of 100% smoke-free multi-unit housing (apartments, condos, etc.) was discussed. The protestors' message: "Tobacco control is out of control!"

Supposedly representing all 6 million* (give or take a million or two) Canadian smokers -- a huge percentage of whom, it must be noted, actively support tough smoking controls -- this '6-pack' of idi... I mean, individuals.. represented their puppet-masters at the nicotine cartel quite well. Hey, come on, "Tobacco control is out of control!" is pretty creative and catchy! If I were a snake-in-the-grass nicotine cartel executive, I'd certainly send those people a few thousand bucks for their efforts... for doing our dirty work for us. A small price to pay, indeed! And it certainly wouldn't be the first such cheque the cartel has sent out to its puppets. In fact, the list of cartel blood money recipients is truly long and distinguished (Sylvester Stallone being one of the more notable recipients of at least $500,000 US on one occasion).

In any case, tobacco control will only be out of control the day it goes beyond prohibiting smokers from smoking anywhere that their smoke drifts and affects innocent bystanders! Let me assure you, as one of the most "radical", "fanatical" and "militant" anti-tobacco "zealots" (just a few of the politer adjectives that have been hurled in my direction) you'll ever encounter, I have absolutely no interest in restricting smoking beyond the point where it only affects the user. And I'll challenge anyone who does.

For a very long time, we thought of bars, pubs and other drinking establishments as "The Final Frontier" in terms of banning smoking... if for no other reason, because smoking had already been banned virtually everywhere else. But also, right or wrong, because tobacco and alcohol are deemed to be society's two "legal" drugs. During countless city council debates on the issue, we constantly heard the invalid, broken-record argument that "the two go hand in hand". In other words, it was physically impossible to have a beer in one hand without a smoldering cigarette in the other!?!

And the unwritten rule was that if you were one of those "odd" people (among the vast majority [85%] of British Columbians) who don't smoke, yourself, then you had exactly two options: Happily suck in the stinking, toxic and deadly airborne residue of somebody else's habit/addiction... and keep your mouth shut about it or -- you guessed it -- you could just LEAVE!

Well, we weren't terribly impressed with either one of those options, so we fought that battle... and that "frontier" fell...and, contrary to nioctine cartel (formerly known as the tobacco industry) perpetuated doom and gloom myths, the sky didn't!

As stated earlier, even we thought bars and pubs were "The Final Frontier." We're pleased to announce that we were wrong.

Among all the beligerent screams of, "Don't tell me how to run my business!", "Mind your own business!", "Don't tell me what I can or can't do in public places and workplaces!", "Let the marketplace decide!", "I have rights...and I'll smoke wherever and whenever I damn-well please!", blah, blah, blah, we heard the occasional murmur, "Don't even think about telling me I can't smoke IN MY OWN HOME!!!" It was just a murmur for two very good reasons: 1) Nobody -- not even us, at Airspace Action on Smoking and Health (Canada's leading all-volunteer, non-profit anti-tobacco organization) -- thought it could/would ever happen; and 2) By keeping it quiet, they hoped nobody would hear... nobody would even think about it. But, deep down inside, even the most heavily-addicted of smokers knew it was only a matter of time.

And Airspace is extremely pleased to announce that the time has come: The new "final frontier" -- SMOKE-FREE MULTI-UNIT HOUSING -- has been found... and achieved... and is well on its way to being conquered!

We believe that very-appropriately-named "ENVY" (a 50-unit condo in North Vancouver, BC) will be Canada's first 100% SMOKE-FREE condominium development! And ENVY will, no doubt, soon become "the envy" of every other multi-unit housing complex, whether rented or owned, in the world.

While Airspace cannot claim direct responsibility for this, we most graciously accept full responsibility for our many major contributions over the last two decades that have led to this "development" in our War on Tobacco, including (but definitely not limited to): Many local No Smoking bylaws throughout the Greater Vancouver Regional District (which takes in 20 separate cities), as well as several on Vancouver Island; the (original) WCB No Smoking regulation; and a much higher level of awareness of the issue, globally, via our website, our many protests/demonstrations, lobbying efforts, letters to the editor, etc.

It's wonderful that some developers are voluntarily making their buildings 100% smoke-free. In the perfect world, every other multi-unit housing complex (apartments, condos, duplexes, etc.) would immediately follow suit. And many will, but not all... and that's why we need good, strong, effective, enforceable -- and enforced -- provincial government legislation.

All levels of government have contributed to the creation of smoke-free public places and workplaces... and, for that, we thank them. But it's absolutely absurd that, especially during long hot summers, so many people who live in smoke-free multi-unit housing can't open their balcony doors/windows, for fear of getting smoked out!

Every credible health official -- up to and including provincial and federal health ministers, the US Surgeon-General et al -- concur that second-hand tobacco smoke is much more than just a nuisance: It's a major health hazard, not to mention the fact that cigarette-ignited fires continue to be the leading cause of fire fatalities.

Now that the precedent has been set, the sky truly is the limit. And don't think that 100% smoke-free policies apply only to brand new buildings.

Owners and/or strata councils of existing buildings -- wherein suites are either rented or bought/owned -- have the right/authority (and, in fact, we would suggest, the duty) to make any building 100% smoke-free whenever they choose to do so. In addition to all the legal niceties (getting the policy [including effective -- and enforceable -- enforcement mechanisms in place] written into new lease/rental agreements, ensuring lots of advance publicity, signage, etc.), current smokers have to be "grand-fathered". In other words, "current" smokers in any building would be allowed to continue to smoke -- in their suites and on their balconies -- until they either die or move out, whichever comes first.

Yes, in a worst case scenario, that could take 50 years or more. But realistically, in the vast majority of cases, the number of "grand-fathered" smokers will dwindle to near zero -- or zero -- very quickly.

Please join Airspace Action on Smoking and Health (our rates are very reasonable... and we accept donations too).

Join us in heartily thanking those "entrepreneurial"/"pioneering" developers who are taking this very bold 'smoke-free' step... clearly, a step in the right direction.

And last but not least, join us in lobbying the provincial Minister of Health for legislation requiring 100% smoke-free multi-unit housing.

Stay tuned for regular updates on this rapidly developing story. The world is watching.

Errol E. Povah

This letter was sent to several Lower Mainland newspapers.

I would like to publicly express my heartfelt thanks to the contractors who started the major renovations on at least two Century Group buildings in Tsawwassen; Kelly Court and Kerry Court apartments.

I say "started" because... well, rumor has it that, with the construction market being so hot right now, these contractors got a better offer elsewhere... and packed their bags and left, leaving the reno job at the above-mentioned apartments far from finished.

The renos started in March or April and, while there's still a great deal of work to be done on the buildings, my own suite - as well as that of my neighbour below me - was completed August 26, including the balcony railings being re-installed.

You're probably wondering why I would be so thankful that a job which shouldn't have taken more than 2 or 3 months dragged out for 5 or 6 months, especially with all the disturbances (often being woken up by the pounding of nails, etc.).

Well, with balconies being totally out of bounds to tenants, I finally got to enjoy my first smoke-free summer in a very long time. It's true! Imagine this: In 25 - 30 degree heat, I could actually open my balcony door any time of the day or night and enjoy cool - and fresh - air, without worrying about my smoke-free home getting smoked out every time my neighbour decided she needed a hit of nicotine.

Unfortuantely, with the balconies back in service, the smoke-free status of my home ended rather abruptly on Aug 28 (my neighbour must have been away on Aug 27).

Airspace Action on Smoking and Health is currently lobbying the (to date, very tobacco-friendly) B.C. Liberal government for legislation prohibiting smoking in multi-unit dwellings (apartments, condos, duplexes, etc.).

Given all that is now known about Second Hand Indoor Tobacco Smoke, there is no justification whatsoever for the situation that I am - and countless thousands of other British Columbians are - now experiencing. We have achieved smoke-free workplaces (including bars) and smoke-free public places. It goes without saying that those who choose to have smoke-free homes are - clearly, unequivocally, 100%, uncompromisingly - entitled to them!

The critical issue here has nothing to do with what anybody does (in this case, smoke): It is strictly about where they do it and, even more importantly, where the smoke goes!

Whether smokers care to accept it or not, it is their responsiblity to ensure that the toxic and deadly residue of their stinking addiction does not affect anyone else. In the case of multi-unit dwellings, that means NO SMOKING, PERIOD!

Errol E. Povah

Airspace President Errol Povah attended the 13th World Conference on Tobacco OR Health in Washington, DC.

Bush and the Reaper
Photo by Debbie Fischer
Okay, it wasn't the real George W. but... During our march to the White House yesterday, Grim ran into an individual who was wearing an incredibly realistic- looking George W. Bush mask. As you can imagine, Grim was absolutely delighted to see his old friend! With media and other cameras snapping and rolling, Grim ran to George, shook hands (simultaneously transferring to George a small token of the nicotine cartel's appreciation) and "warmly" embraced him. Not that there wasn't enough heat already! Temperatures are in the low to mid 90s, with extremely high humidity. Add a black (and very heavy) costume to the mix and I think Grim has developed a new weight-loss program: about five pounds per hour!!! Beat that, Jenny!

William F. Buckley, Jr., founder of the National Review and highly respected conservative commentator, was recently diagnosed with emphysema at the Mayo Clinic. Here is an op-ed piece by Buckley on the subject:

Is there a solution?

I was back home after three days at the Mayo Clinic, and I sat with my wife, having decided on an evening of television. To this end we looked in the morning paper and saw the listing for the story of Bette Davis, coming on at 9 p.m. This was appealing, inasmuch as when I was about 15, I fancied my future as Mr. Bette Davis -- though that was a contingent romance, if Betty Hutton would not have me. And it was especially embittering given that Bette married just about everybody else. So I wound up with the mother of the author of Thank You for Smoking.

In any case, we were seated, and after a flurry of investigations to discover on what TV channel Turner Classic Movies appears in New York (answer: 82) we were staring at her. That lovely head, lips all but closed, smoke filtering out of her mouth, and when the smoke was finally gone, she began to speak in her special way, contemptuous of everybody and everything. What followed (for as long as we stayed with her) were shots dating back to 1930. She was always with a cigarette in her hand, calling to mind the recent movie about Edward R. Murrow, which is one long shot of smoke-filled rooms in which characters occasionally say things -- grim things, mostly -- in between puffs on cigarettes.

The Mayo Clinic is in what I think of as Middle America, though the term has to be used with care. It's easiest to visualize: Get yourself to Minneapolis and then head south for 90 miles, whereafter ... Rochester. There are 100,000 people there; a third of them work for IBM and a third for Mayo. Most people have a story about that remarkable place, myself included. Mine I got from the late David Niven. He was suffering from an odd affliction that seized his voice from time to time. Living in France and Switzerland, he had consulted with a broad band of specialists, but none had come up with a diagnosis. My wife said to him, Why don't you go to Mayo's? He did, and in two days they told him he was suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, popularly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. That's what it was, and he died of it 18 months later.

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