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 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."

A quick history lesson:

One of the first major acts of the B.C. Liberals (when they were first elected, in 2001) was to gut the WCB No Smoking regulation; most notably, that part of it which applied to bar and pub workers. It was not part of their pre-election platform, nor did they have any mandate whatsoever to do it, but none of that mattered. What mattered most to Gordo and his gang was that their good pals in the bar and pub industry (many of whom are nothing more than well-paid puppets of the tobacco industry) were happy. By the way, prior to the Liberals' 2001 election win, B.C. was Number One (provincially/territorially) in terms of tobacco control. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, just 4 years later -- in 2005 -- B.C. had plummeted to 9th (out of 13)!

Once again letting several other provinces take the lead -- and only after a great deal of pressure from both the general public and Nanaimo NDP MLA Leonard Krog -- the Liberals finally, in 2008, adopted a law prohibiting smoking in cars when children are present. After announcing the ban, Minister of, Minister of Health George Abbott was asked by a reporter if he would then consider a ban on smoking in multi-unit dwellings (apartments, condos, ec.). Abbott's response: No, because "a man's home is his castle." Well, while George is clearly looking after the Marlboro Man, he is inadvertently/simultaneously saying, "To hell with all of the non-smoking men...and women...and babies/children...who will suffer the various problems associated with secondhand tobacco smoke, especially on hot summer days, when balcony doors/windows must be open.

To Pollack's response to PSC's call:

"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."

It's a matter of HEALTH, Mary! If we learned nothing else from the early days of tobacco control, it was the critical importance of a level playing field ...both among all businesses and among all cities in a region...or, ideally (as we learned via the WCB No Smoking regulation), across an entire province. Exceptions to the "level playing field" rule should be made only when a jurisdiction takes a leadership role and either expands tobacco control laws beyond what the others are doing or, Heaven forbid, actually sets some (progressive) precedent. Clearly, we won't hold our breath waiting for Gordo and his gang to take a leadership role in terms of tobacco control.

"We know ours [stategy] has been successful..." How dare Pollack/the B.C. Liberals claim any credit whatsoever for B.C. having the lowest smoking rate in Canada! It's the lowest DESPITE them, not BECAUSE OF them! Furthermore, while banning tobacco sales from pharmacies, in and of itself, won't eliminate the 5,500 annual tobacco deaths in British Columbia -- EACH AND EVERY YEAR -- Pollack's attitude suggests that those 5,500 premature deaths are really quite acceptable.

"...and this would be one more piece to look at, but not something we're considering in the immediate [future]."

No rush, Mary! We've only been helping in the huge lobbying effort to get tobacco out of pharmacies for about 15 years now!

Povah added, "The time is long past due for this 'official policy' of apathy/indifference toward the leading -- and most easily (and cheaply) preventable -- cause of disease, disability and premature death to end...and if that means holding governments accountable, then so be it."

Press release from Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada: Health over Profits: A call on 3 provincial governments in western Canada to ban tobacco sales in pharmacies

Press release from the Canadian Cancer Society: Tobacco should not be sold in Pharmacies