If the coming year is anything like 2006, 2007 will, indeed, be one of the best years ever for 'our side' in the War on Tobacco. And we're very proud to tell our members and supporters that your organization -- Airspace Action on Smoking & Health, Canada's leading all-volunteer anti-tobacco organization - was (and will continue to be) at the forefront of many of those victories, both locally and globally.
At the time of this writing (January 1), 2007 is already off to an extremely good start... largely because, right or wrong, this is a date that many jurisdictions choose to implement and/or 'beef up' No Smoking laws... but more on that later.
On a personal note, one of the highlights of '06 for me was the 13th World Conference on Tobacco OR Health (WCTOH) in Washington DC last July, which was attended by about 5,000 delegates from around the world. Networking with colleagues -- both old and new - was awesome. But I would be remiss if I didn't make special mention of my Malaysian friends (all of whom I met [for the first time] only about 8 months earlier, in Kuala Lumpur; Haniki, Mary, Molly, Koris, Yong and others. It was great to see all of you again... and Season's Greetings to my dear friend Hatijah too, without whom my Malaysian protest just wouldn't have happened.
Another huge highlight of the WCTOH: Participating, along with about 200 fellow anti-tobacco activists, in a march on the White House, followed by a rally in the park across the street. The point of the protest was, at least in part, to urge George W. Bush to ratify a World Health Organization initiative, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. But the truly heart-warming part was the fact that the vast majority of the protestors were pre-teens and teens. That's right, a large group of the nicotine cartel's primary targets ('new recruits' or 'replacement smokers' as the cartel likes to call them, necessary to replace the 5 million of their best customers that their products prematurely kill off every year, globally) weren't satisfied with 'just saying no' to tobacco; they're simply not going to take it any more. They're offended and outraged that any industry - let alone one as destructive and deadly as the nicotine cartel - would even think of them as 'targets'... and these kids are turning the tables... and very aggressively and effectively fighting back. I applaud them... and was extremely proud to help them in that effort. Dressed as the Grim Reaper, I posed for pictures with many of the anti-tobacco kids at the White House; pictures taken by the kids themselves, by tourists (who just happened to be there at the same time), by the media, by DC police, by White House security staff and, no doubt, by one or two cartel 'plants'. Along with my traditional 5-foot-long SICKARET, I carried a placard that read, "TOBACCO KILLS MORE PEOPLE WORLDWIDE EVERY 6 HOURS THAN WERE KILLED IN ALL OF THE 9/11 ATTACKS!" on one side... and, "SORT OF MAKES YOU WONDER WHO THE REAL TERRORISTS ARE, DOESN'T IT? P.S. Keep up the great work, Philip Morris! Your ol' pal, 'Grim'" on the other.
2006 was also the year in which previously-very-tobacco-friendly Gordon Campbell and his B.C. Liberals announced the elimination of 1) smoke pits on all school property (as of Sep, 07) and 2) designated smoking rooms (in bars and pubs) as of Jan 1, 08. Given this government's deplorable record on tobacco control to date, we are extremely cautiously optimistic about these two developments. After all, this is the same government that gutted the WCB No Smoking regulation. It was not part of their pre-election platform (in late 2000/early 2001), nor did they have any mandate whatsoever to do it, but one of the first major acts of Campbell's government was to, for the first time in the 80-year history of the Workers' Compensation Board, interfere with and over-rule that body, rendering the No Smoking regulation virtually useless, certainly as it applied to bar and pub staff. Furthermore, the government apparently saw no need whatsoever to consult with any of the real experts in tobacco control (at the Lung Association, the Cancer Society, the Heart & Stroke Foundation... and they'll never consult with Airspace!) regarding any aspect of these amendments/policies/laws; publicity, drafting, implementation, compliance, enforcement, etc. Bottom line: We'll believe it if and when we see it... and after we assess it.
And after fighting this battle at BC Ferries for the last 28 years or so, 2007 just may be the year when we see smoking banned entirely on all BC ferries and terminals (as Washington State ferries has already done). Or, at the very least, we'll get the company's own/internal (employee) No Smoking policy enforced a little more aggressively... and public smoking restricted to the aft end of the uppermost decks on the ships.
In closing (and as promised earlier), here are a few details about some exciting developments in terms of smoke-free policies/laws as they apply to our newest frontier: MULTI-UNIT DWELLINGS, whether they be apartments, condos, duplexes, etc. Globe General Agencies, which runs about 60 apartment buildings in and around Winnipeg, went 100% smoke-free (that's right, 100% smoke-free... not just in 'common areas' [lobbies, stairwells, elevators, hallways, etc.], but in ALL suites and on ALL balconies too!!!) last October. The company will soon extend the policy to its properties in Edmonton, Saskatoon and Montreal. Envy, a soon-to-be-built condo complex in North Van, has been proclaimed "the first condominium in Canada" to go 100% smoke-free, although I believe the soon-to-be-completed "Oliva" in Tsawwassen just might steal that title away. Bottom line: At the rate that this issue is 'snow-balling', we predict 100% SMOKE-FREE MULTI-UNIT HOUSING - whether it's done 'voluntarily' or via legislation - will soon be as common as smoke-free public places and smoke-free workplaces.
That said, please help us to make that happen much sooner rather than later. We appreciate that smoke-free balconies are NOT a huge issue at this time of year, but spring and summer will be here before we know it... and I, for one, will no longer tolerate being violated/poisoned in my smoke-free home every time I simply want to open my window or balcony door.
Please, send in your donation or membership today! Thank you very much... and a Happy and SMOKE-FREE New Year to all!
President, Airspace Action on Smoking & Health