Health Canada needs to show some guts in the fight against Big Tobacco/Big Nicotine!

First, a little bit of history:

Big Tobacco (BT) exists, in Canada, because Health Canada (HC) was asleep at the switch more than half a century ago, when BT was, relatively speaking, "Little Tobacco".

Big Nicotine (BN, the latest creation of BT) exists, in Canada, because Health Canada was -- and still is -- unconscious!

It seems HC learned absolutely nothing from the [ongoing] tobacco pandemic.  Given that experience (and 2 million plus Canadian deaths from tobacco use), one would think that, if/when BT et al came up with a 'new and improved' product like e-cigs -- complete with extremely slick, glossy and ,i>attractive-to-youth marketing and advertising -- HC would've said, "Not so fast!  Like any other product on the market, this needs to be tested, we need to know the long-term consequences, etc."  But it seems that BT, with its extremely deep pocket$, always gets a pass... and, quite literally, gets away with [albeit slow] murder.

E-cigs are currently banned, entirely, in about 40 countries around the world!  What is HC doing?  Well, HC is, quite literally, "rearranging the deck chairs as the Titanic sinks."  HC is expressing "concern"... and, no doubt, establishing a few dozen committees to "study" the problem.  The results of those studies won't be known until after e-cig companies have proliferated and become so entrenched as an industry that it's virtually impossible to do anything about it, not to mention an ever-increasing incidence of addiction, disease, disability and premature death.

Read more: Health Canada needs to show some guts in the fight against Big Tobacco/Big Nicotine!

Joint Letter RE: The role of the tobacco industry in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

19 July 2019
Secretary General António Guterres
United Nations, S-233
New York, NY 10027

Dear Secretary General Guterres,

RE: The role of the tobacco industry in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

We are writing to you regarding a note on the role of the tobacco industry in the United Nation’s (UN) 2030 Agenda you received from the outgoing Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG), Michael Møller.

Mr. Møller’s call for a “more nuanced” relationship between the tobacco industry and the UN system represents a threat to progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals but also stands in direct conflict with international law, in particular Article 5.3 of the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which states that “Parties shall act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry.” It is alarming that an outgoing UN official of Mr. Møller’s status would feel the need to suggest softening the stance of the global community toward an industry whose products claim 8 million lives and cost between one and two percent of global GDP annually.

Read more: Joint Letter RE: The role of the tobacco industry in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

The Cigarette Butt: King of the Single-Use Plastics

A letter to the editor published in the Toronto Star on July 7, 2019.

Most of us are aware that cigarette butts are the by far and away the leading source of litter, either by number or weight, both in Canada and worldwide, where trillions are littered daily. In addition to being unsightly, non-biodegradable and toxic to marine and terrestrial environments, they are also a leading cause of destructive fires. Although they are increasingly getting the attention that they deserve as an environmental concern, little thought to them has been given in the context of Canada's recently proposed single-use plastics ban.  

So what exactly is a cigarette butt? Doesn't the filter make smoking safer? They are made up of mostly cellulose acetate–a type of plastic. According to Historian Allen Brandt's "The Cigarette Century" , while initially introduced in the 1950s in response to growing health concerns about smoking (at a time when the industry was still claiming there were none), it soon became clear that they do not make smoking any less dangerous, (and make actually contribute to it's mortality via making smoking less irritating, easing initiation and increasing amounts smoked). They quickly became a marketing tool for the industry- pH was intentionally manipulated to ensure the filters darkened upon smoking, providing the reassuring illusion of filtration.

Read more: The Cigarette Butt: King of the Single-Use Plastics

New York to ban tobacco sales in pharmacies

The timing couldn't be more impeccable.

Less than 12 hours before Airspace President Errol Povah and Director Marc Ander embark on a protest regarding the ongoing sale of tobacco from pharmacies in B.C. -- the only province/territory in Canada that still allows such sales -- we learned that yet another major jurisdiction, New York state, is on the verge of outlawing the sale of tobacco from pharmacies (Albany, the state capital, and New York City have already done so).  Tobacco sales could be phased out at New York pharmacies

We'll be outside the London Drugs store at Granville and Georgia in downtown Vancouver, B.C, on Wednesday, February 27.  The occasion:  Pink Shirt (anti-bullying) the best of my knowledge, a 'local' (B.C. only) event.

So, what's the connection between an anti-bullying event and getting tobacco out of pharmacies?  So glad you asked.

London Drugs -- the main sponsor of Pink Shirt Day -- is a bully...a CORPORATE bully!


Well because, a few years ago, London Drugs' COO Clint Mahlman threatened to sue the College of Pharmacists of B.C. -- as well as the individual members of the Board of Directors -- if that body went ahead with a plan to outlaw the sale of tobacco products from all pharmacies in B.C.  Tragically, their threat -- THEIR BULLYING -- worked...and the College backed down.

We, however, will not.  We will embarrass and humiliate London Drugs -- as well as their #1 cheerleaders (Jon McComb and all the gang at CKNW/Global) -- as much as possible.

Stay tuned.


Open letter to the World Health Organization

28th January 2019
To the Director General and Executive Board of the World Health Organization:

We write to you, as members of the global public health community, to express our grave concern at the attempt by the Philip Morris International-funded entity, Foundation fo a Smoke Free World (FSFW), to pave the road for partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO).

Giving any consideration to an organization that is entirely funded by the tobacco industry would fundamentally undermine the significant health and policy gains made to date on the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and prevention of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) through the implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). It would specifically undermine WHO FCTC Article 5.3 which seeks to protect public health policies from the vested interests of the tobacco industry and on which much of the success of the treaty rests.

We therefore call on you to reject this approach, in the strongest terms, and reinforce WHO’s 2017 notice to governments and the public health community to reject any affiliation with FSFW because of the “of clear conflicts of interest involved with a tobacco company funding a purported health foundation, particularly if it promotes sale of tobacco and other products found in that company’s brand portfolio.”

Read more: Open letter to the World Health Organization

A response on plain packaging

A letter to the editor published in the National Post on June 30, written by Stan Shatenstein of Montreal:

Big Tobacco can act

Re: "Imperial Tobacco 'shocked' by Health Canada's proposal for plain packaging of cigarettes", June 26

Imperial Tobacco says it's “shocked and confused” by the government's proposed regulations mandating plain packaging for cigarettes and other tobacco products. What's truly shocking is that a company responsible for fully half this country's annual 45,000 entirely preventable, premature smoking-related deaths has the gall to continue complaining and to even threaten to take the government to court.

Imperial should just quietly keep counting its blood-soaked money and also count itself fortunate that its products are so addictive that they can't be banned outright. Prohibition is not realistic, even if tobacco's toxicity would make it entirely warranted, but any regulations the government wishes to impose, and are based on the best available evidence, are worth adoption without Big Tobacco's input.

It's also worth noting that, while Imperial laments "a number of provisions that are basically impossible to comply with,” the industry said the exact same thing when Canada was on the verge of setting a world precedent by introducing graphic warning labels in 2001. Health groups quickly found printers who could do the job, putting the lie to the firms' complaints. Canada is not the first when it comes to plain packs, but the draft regulations are rigorous and set a number of global precedents. They should be saluted, not challenged by the industry whose unconscionable actions have made them necessary.

Stan Shatenstein
Editor & Publisher, STAN Bulletin

Toss a butt, pay a fine

A ticket for $575 issued by the RCMP in Langford, west of Victoria.


Big - and bittersweet - changes at BC Ferries

Article by Jon Aspiri at Global News:  BC Ferries to ban passengers from staying on closed vehicle decks during sailings starting in October (includes video)

A few comments...from a 30-year employee of B.C.Ferries who retired, as a Second Officer, almost 9 years ago.

First, I was really quite amazed:  Of the two/simultaneous announcements (yes, the 'official' start dates are different but...), it seems to me that the 'ban on people in their vehicles on enclosed car decks' got far more coverage -- and seemed to be more "controversial" -- than what appears to be a very sweeping and comprehensive smoking ban.  

For the sake of 'balance', I guess they had to interview one whining woman (I wonder how long it took them to find a smoker) who seemed to think that the existing smoking areas are small enough and, of course, "they don't bother anybody" (especially those smoking areas that are directly outside the kids play areas, much to Big Tobacco's delight, on both of the Spirit class ships... with supposedly smoke-free areas aft of those smoking areas).

Second, the smoking ban has been in the works for at least a couple of years, I believe... and went through a few stages (for example, the version that existed about a year ago did not include the terminals).

For me, personally, the smoking ban is bittersweet.

From my day one at BCFS -- almost 4 decades ago, in July of '78 -- I fought the battle for the total ban (incrementally, of course) virtually every day of my career... telling both passengers (including a Hell's Angel) and crew (including a couple of ferry Captains) -- and anybody/everybody in between -- to butt out (unless, of course, they were in a designated smoking area).

Read more: Big - and bittersweet - changes at BC Ferries

Health Canada, and Big Tobacco?

To Health Canada:

Please forgive me if I don't seem very appreciative of Health Canada's so-called tobacco control efforts.

Personally, I believe that Big Tobacco -- not just in Canada, but globally -- should be completely run out of business... and there are not just one, but two completely legal ideas to achieve just that.  Obviously, the toppling of Big Tobacco won't happen overnight, but it would be 'phased out', over a period of 20 or 30 years.  All that's required, ultimately, is a little (or perhaps a great deal of) political will. 

Again, forgive me... but after reading just the one-page "Consultation on amendments to the Tobacco Reporting Regulations", I had neither the time nor the inclination to proceed any further.  That said, I had a quick look at the TRR... and, with the utmost of respect, it seems to me that one would have to be a lawyer to 'interpret' much of that document.  And, as I'm sure you well know, when it comes to lawyers, few are better paid and more successful than those who are part of Big Tobacco's small army of lawyers.  However, I digress... 

Read more: Health Canada, and Big Tobacco?

Letter to the Globe and Mail on plain packaging

Dear Editor:

Re:  Canada should adopt plain packaging rules despite what Big Tobacco says (by Andre Picard, September 22,2016)

In my humble opinion, one's position on anything and everything tobacco-related ultimately boils down to one's knowledge -- and opinion -- of Big Tobacco.

If you believe that BT is just another "Good Corporate Citizen" out there, simply trying to get by in the dog-eat-dog business world, I would, with the utmost of respect, suggest that you know absolutely nothing about BT...and your opinion isn't worth the paper it's written on.

If, on the other hand, you're Andre Picard -- or a lifelong anti-tobacco activist, as I am -- you KNOW (or at least you have some small sense of) just how sleazy, wicked, mean and nasty BT is... and just how deep its pockets are.  The success or failure of BT's efforts, globally, depends almost exclusively on how many politicians it can 'buy'.

Think Big Oil is bad?  Big Sugar?  Big Food?  Big Pharma?  Or any other Big Bad corporate behemoth?

Big Tobacco is the great grand-daddy of all of them...and, frankly, Big Tobacco's "opinion" -- on any and all tobacco issues -- doesn't count!

If I may paraphrase Andre Picard, everything Big Tobacco thinks, says and does -- and produces -- is "utter rubbish"...tragically, extremely toxic and deadly rubbish!

The headline should've said, "Canada should adopt plain packaging rules because of what Big Tobacco says!" because, ultimately, what is good for society is bad for BT... and vice versa.

Errol E. Povah
President, Airspace