Dear Editor:

While I'm quite well aware of the corporate links between the Vancouver Sun and the Province (which, coincidentally, aren't entirely unlike those between Player's and du Maurier, for example), I never suspected that the editors of either paper had the time -- or the inclination, for that matter -- to smoke...I mean, to read...the others' paper.  But apparently somebody at the Province has been reading the Sun!

That said, I have no qualms whatsoever about anything Sun reporter Neal Hall wrote in his May 24 article ("Suit filed in condo smoking battle").  It would have been nice, however, if somebody from the Province had taken the trouble to actually interview me, directly (as Hall did), before writing an editorial purporting to know what we, at Airspace Action on Smoking & Health, do or do not 'believe'.

An organization called "Tobacco Farmers in Crisis" staged a protest in Delhi, Ontario on February 26. The President of this organization is Brian Edwards, who gave up on growing tobacco three years ago.

The protesters were asking for a government handout, but this time, there's a twist. They weren't asking for crop subsidies, price supports, marketing help, or restrictions on imports. Instead, they want the Federal government to put in a slight increase in the Federal tax on cigarettes, and use the revenue to finance the conversion of tobacco farms to other crops. What they are advocating is similar to a program adopted in the U.S. three years ago.

This offer of surrender terms was prompted by the reality that the quotas mandated by the marketing board for tobacco are only 20% of what they were ten years ago, and these quotas might be even lower this year. This doesn't, of course, mean that the sale of cigarettes in Canada has dropped by 80%. It means that the three principal distributors of cigarettes in Canada (this is worded to include BAT [as in Players and du Maurier], which has its corporate offices in London, UK, and now manufactures cigarettes for the Canadian market in Mexico) are purchasing most of their raw tobacco from third-world countries, primarily Brazil.

Now, we could be uncharitable and point out that these same people were complaining ten years ago that cigarette taxes were too high, and that five years ago, they were asking the government for marketing help. That would be a bad idea. The current Conservative government could, for idealogical reasons, respond by abolishing the marketing board. This would bankrupt most tobacco growers, but it would keep a few big ones in business, and they would still have some clout in Ottawa.

The "exit strategy" advocated by Tobacco Farmers in Crisis would be better for just about everyone. Airspace wants the tobacco industry removed from this planet, and this would be a step in that direction. The distributors of cigarettes in Canada would no longer be able to hold these tobacco growers hostage, and the absence of any Canadian content in their product will make these corporations even more unpopular.

Tobacco Farmers in Crisis deserves some credit for being realistic about the tobacco industry's future. Their activities have gotten little attention from the mainstream media. What they are doing deserves to be taken seriously.

Tobacco Famers in Crisis site

The members and directors of Airspace Action on Smoking & Health would like to extend our heartfelt congratulations to a world leader in tobacco control, Mr. Gar Mahood.

After becoming a lifetime member of the world-renowned Non-Smokers' Rights Association about 20 years ago and attending several NSRA AGMs and various and sundry anti-tobacco conferences over the years, I'm proud to call Gar a friend.

Again, congratulations Gar, on having the Order of Canada recently bestowed upon you. You have been, you are and you will no doubt continue to be one of the biggest reasons why the good guys are winning the War on Tobacco.

Errol E. Povah
President, Airspace Action on Smoking & Health

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.

"When the former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko was found to have been poisoned by radioactive polonium 210 last week, there was one group that must have been particularly horrified: the tobacco industry.

"The industry has been aware at least since the 1960s that cigarettes contain significant levels of polonium."

This is the start of an op-ed piece by Robert N. Proctor, published in the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune. You can read the entire article by clicking here.

"The Denial Machine" is a documentary about how Phillip Morris and RJ Reynolds hired people to lie for them. Then, the fossil fuel industry hired the same bunch of liars.

This film is being shown by CBC Newsworld in the Pacific time zone at midnight and 4 PM. If you don't get CBC Newsworld, or neither of these times are convenient for you, you can watch the program online by going to

A letter sent to, and not published by, the Vancouver Sun.

While I have not yet seen all of the details of the recently-announced provincial No Smoking policy, it appears to be off to a rather rocky start.

In the very first paragraph of "Restaurants allowed smoking patios" (Nov 7), Health Minister George Abbott not only attempts to make some sort of a distinction between designated smoking rooms and patios (they're all smoke pits!), but he completely destroys the much-sought-after "level playing field" that is so absolutely critical to the success of any No Smoking law.

Then he creates a little more confusion by suggesting that there's a link between "ban[ning] smoking altogether" and "make[ing] tobacco illegal," when, in fact, the two are as different as night and day.

Given all that is now known about second-hand tobacco smoke, banning smoking altogether (in all public places and workplaces, including patios and entranceways, in parks, on beaches, on all school property and in all multi-unit housing [apartments and condos], etc.) is completely reasonable. Such bans have nothing whatsoever to do with WHAT anybody does (in this case, smoke); it is solely and exclusively about WHERE they do it and, even more importantly, WHERE the smoke goes. And the government has the right and, in fact, the duty/obligation to protect its citizens from such a hazard.

Making tobacco illegal, on the other hand, is something that neither I nor any anti-tobacco activist I know (and I know dozens of them, from all over the world) has ever suggested. To attempt to make a product that millions of people are addicted to illegal would result in unimaginable chaos... from riots to civil disobedience to smuggling and/or an instant black market, etc.

Many others before Abbott have falsely implied that there's a link between banning smoking and the dreaded 'P' word: Prohibition. What we are trying to achieve, in terms of tobacco control, is not at all like the (not-surprisingly) failed experiment of prohibition, which was clearly intended to rid the U.S. of alcohol entirely.

And finally, I loved the part of (Ivanhoe co-owner) Chris Gock's comment, where he said that, "There are guys who almost live in those smoking rooms..." (emphasis mine) First, it's funny to see the word "live" in connection with a product that is directly responsible for so much disease, disability and premature death; being preceded by the word "almost" makes it even funnier.


Errol E. Povah

We were wondering who those "bullies" were that John Martin was talking about last week. Well, Councillor Matt Todd of White Rock is apparently one of them. This letter to the editor was published in The Province on November 7:

As instigator of the proposed smoking ban in White Rock, columnist John Martin, implies I am a "righteous bully in a regulatory jihad."

But every person should enjoy the maximum freedom possible.

So what happens when smoking in public causes someone else discomfort or harm?

The common assumption seems to be that smoke outdoors simply disappears -- no harm, no foul. But as smoking diners indulge their nicotine addiction on a patio, the breeze takes their smoke past the faces of others and often blows it into the restaurant's open windows or door.

Perhaps Martin's opinions would be different if he had asthma, a heart condition or understood the proven risk to children and expectant mothers.

Smoke kills over five times as many as the sum of all car accidents, murders and drugs.

Though historical tolerance blinds us from it, nicotine addiction has huge impacts on our quality of life.

Someone's nicotine addiction should not take priority over everyone else's health.

Coun. Matt Todd
White Rock

Michael Smyth of The Province had this to say, with regard to the Campbell government's decision in 2001 to permit smoking rooms in pubs: "Let's get real: This was a cave-in to the Liberal Party's political supporters in the hospitality industry. Politics was more important to them than the health of British Columbians, hundreds of whom die every year from diseases related to second-hand smoke. Thousands more get sick. You'll probably hear some griping from the industry in the coming days about Campbell's decision to get rid of these smoking rooms. Tough... The bottom line: This announcement is better late than never. But it's shameful that Campbell didn't do the right thing when he had the chance five years ago to save thousands of people from being exposed to these deadly poisons."

Here's the entire column: Premier better late than never with all-out ban

Here's a response from Airspace:

Dear Editor:

Huge smoke-free kudos to Michael Smyth for "Premier better late than never with all-out ban" (Nov 5).

Given this government's overtly tobacco-friendly stance over the last 5 1/2 years, we are extremely cautiously optimistic about Gordon Campbell's announcement. As the Clean Air Coalition's Jack Boomer responded, "It's all about enforcement, making sure these policies are enacted and enforced."

Campbell appears to be on the right track by banning smoking on all school property (good riddance, smoke pits!) but if he's serious about reducing youth smoking, his next step should be drafting legislation which would outlaw the possession of tobacco by anyone under 19.

Errol E. Povah
President, Airspace Action on Smoking & Health

Here's a response from another Airspace member to the Penticton Herald:

Gordon Campbell had the opportunity to do the right thing five years ago and chose instead to capitulate to hospitality sector demands that it not be required to provide safe working conditions for employees or adhere to necessary measures to protect public health. This in turn led many bar owners to ignore readily available information on the ineffectiveness of ventilation technology in protecting people from the health risks of secondhand smoke and make a huge investment that they now feel was made in vain.

The human right of British Columbians to protect their health and have safe access to venues purporting to be open to the public was sacrificed to misconceptions that the hospitality industry would collapse unless it were permitted to cater primarily to the whims of the 15% of British Columbians who still smoke.

The taxes smokers pay do not even come close to compensating us for the problems they create for us all, so please do not cry me that river. The cost of self-inflicted illness is only a portion of the issue: there is the extensive harm caused by secondhand smoke to other people's health; infringement of the human right to protect one's health; limitations on access to employment, housing, and a normal life; the ubiquitous smoking-related litter; ruining everyone's general quality of life; and preventable fires caused by negligent smoking and all of the suffering and loss that those cause.

The argument about general pollution is illogical, like saying that we should be allowed to kick people because so many are hit by cars every day, and being kicked is not as bad as being run over. Would Tim Coy argue that we should stop investigating assaults until we have put an end to all dangerous driving?

Still, Mr. Coy may be satisfied to know that even if Premier Gordon Campbell's stated intention to upgrade British Columbia's current pretense at having smoking regulations is actually implemented or enforced in two years' time, we will still have the weakest regulations in Canada of any province or territory that has any tobacco-related legislation at all.

Sera Kirk

More details in the November 7 Vancouver Sun: Restaurants allowed smoking patios, by Pamela Fayerman

The Clean Air Coalition of BC (CAC), which is made up of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of B.C. & Yukon and the BC Lung Association, in partnership with other stakeholders such as the Canadian Cancer Society, is calling on the BC Provincial Government to implement province-wide 100% smoke-free legislation in all indoor public places and workplaces, including restaurants and bars, with NO allowances for Designated Smoking Rooms (DSRs).


The Government can no longer justify allowing our hospitality workers to expose themselves to smoke in the workplace, when the evidence is so definitive and indisputable that any level of second-hand smoke is harmful. There is ENOUGH scientific research, ENOUGH economic research and ENOUGH public support to justify this legislation. The time to Act is Now. You can help us send a strong message to the government to protect workers and the public equally from second-hand smoke.

What can you do?

Go to our website at: and click on the "Take Action" button

There are three options for Taking Action: (We would encourage you to send an Email to your MLA - Option 1 - as it goes directly to the Premier as well)

1) Email message to politicians - people can send an email message directly to their provincial MLA, and Premier Campbell will be automatically copied. We have provided an email message that can be used, with space to provide a personal message.

2) Letter writing tool kit - provides information on the ENOUGH campaign and why BC needs province-wide smoke-free public places legislation and information for writing letters to provincial politicians.

3) ENOUGH Postcards are being distributed by leading non-governmental organizations and other interested organizations - if you want to order 10 or more postcards, please contact Gene Chin at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (See copy of the Enough postcard on the CAC website - under letter writing)

More information about why the ENOUGH Campaign is necessary

Despite the alarming evidence contained in the recent US Surgeon General's report that found there is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke, and the California Air Resources Board's recent designation of second-hand tobacco smoke as a toxic air contaminant in the same category as the most toxic automotive and industrial air pollutants, British Columbia lags behind most other provinces/territories in Canada that have implemented 100% smoke-free legislation in all public places, with NO Designated Smoking Rooms.

In BC today, smoking is banned in most workplaces under the Workers' Compensation Board ETS Regulations. However, when the Liberal government came into power in 2001, under the direction of Premier Gordon Campbell, they went on to override the WCB and weaken the Regulation to allow workers in the hospitality sector ONLY to work in DSRs (a decision based on unfounded economic concerns raised by the hospitality industry). Hospitality workers are the only workers in BC forced to choose whether to expose themselves to the hazardous carcinogens in second-hand smoke, for up to 20% of their work shift. BC now has a two-tier system where workers in the hospitality industry are provided less protection than all other workers in the province.

We are asking for your help in sending a strong message to the BC Provincial government by voicing your support for implementation of province-wide 100% smoke-free legislation in all indoor public places, including restaurants and bars, with no allowances for DSRs. We have had ENOUGH excuses - It's time to Act Now. Please feel free to share this email with others - together we can make a difference!

Sharon Hammond
Provincial Manager
Clean Air Coalition of BC