Bev Oda - photo by Sean Kilpatrick, CPBev Oda, former Federal MP and Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women, and Minister for International Cooperation in the Harper government, and the tobacco industry's poster girl in Canada, has sent yet another bill to Canadian taxpayers. In 2010, a $250 penalty was added to a hotel bill in Washington, DC for violating the hotel's policy against smoking in room, and the charge was expensed to the Federal government. Here's the story from MacLean's: Bev Oda: Penalty for smoking in a hotel room among expenses MP charged to taxpayers

We can be thankful that she managed to not burn the hotel down.

May 31 is World No Tobacco Day. For people in British Columbia, the issues that initially come to mind on the subject of tobacco are smoking in multi-unit dwellings, smoking in parks and beaches, and sidewalk litter.

One of the themes for World No Tobacco Day for 2012 is how the tobacco industry has stepped up their efforts to have their way with national governments. A high-profile example of this is plain packaging for cigarettes, which is enacted in Australia, and under consideration in the United Kingdom. You can read more about it here.

Here's another one for British Columbians: child labour. Marty Otañez, a friend of Airspace, has published a paper about the tobacco industry's use of child labour in Malawi, the country that has gotten the most publicity in this regard. The tobacco industry's use of child labour is also widespread in The Philippines, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and India.

This is serious. Children that are exploited like this don't go to school or do other things that children normally do. Children that work in tobacco fields are beaten, sexually abused, and poisoned by the high exposure to nicotine.

OK, so you don't shop at WalMart, or buy cigarettes. Sorry, you're still not off the hook on this. Your Provincial government, through the agency British Columbia Investment Management Corporation (BCIMC), holds shares in at least seven tobacco companies, at last count. They hold $103 million worth of British American Tobacco (BAT), one of the biggest customers of child labour-produced tobacco. They also hold shares in Sousa Cruz, the Brazilian subsidiary of BAT and another major offender.

BCIMC is supposed to operate at arms length from the Provincial government, and they tend to fly below the public radar screen. However, BCIMC has standards that they are supposed to operate by; you can read them here. Yes, these standards include the fundamental standards of the International Labour Organization. For that reason, investment in the tobacco industry by BCIMC should be an automatic “fail.”

It's time to get your MLA, cabinet ministers, and the Official Opposition interested in this.

A Berlin-based organization,, is taking on the larger issue of tobacco cultivation. Not just the labour standards, but damage caused by deforestation and pesticides.

A published letter to the editor, in response to this article: Tenants fume over invasive second-hand smoke, by Tara Carman

Thank you for this article. As an asthmatic who was forced to move  six times because of smoking neighbours, I never thought I was  lucky. But unlike Ms. Borutski, I at least had the option of escape, even if I had to repeat it a few times.

Although I am currently happy in a smoke-free place, it should not  have taken me repeated nightmare moves to find it. Having to fight  for an obvious necessity such as smoke-free housing is like having  to fight to ban cholera lollipop sales in schools.

Grandfathering sounds fair in theory. In reality it protects only  smokers who already have housing, at the expense of everyone else.  Landlords are saddled with a devalued property that is available  only to people who neither smoke nor mind breathing other people’s  smoke in their own homes.

A recent New York law requires multi-unit housing providers to state  and enforce their smoking policies. There will undoubtedly be some  initial reshuffling. However, unlike what smokers’ neighbours  currently face, these one-time moves will result in smokers finding  places where they won’t bother anyone and everyone else finally  finding a place where they can stay in safety and comfort.

Sera Kirk

On the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, a message from the president of Airspace:
On behalf of the Members and the Board of Directors of Airspace Action on Smoking and Health, the world's leading all-volunteer anti-tobacco organization, I'd like to express our most sincere condolences to the families (children, grand-children, great grand-children, et al) and friends of all those who were lost in the Titanic tragedy 100 years ago today.
As tragic as the sinking of the Titanic was, it was an accident.

Globally, at the rate of one death every five seconds, tobacco kills the same number of people - about 1,500 - every two hours. That's every two hours. 

For the record: after the impact with the iceberg, the Titanic continued to float for about 2 3/4 hours.

Tobacco is a Titanic tragedy... every two hours. And that is no accident.
Help Airspace Action on Smoking and Health put an end to the massacre.

Article by Carlito Pablo in the Georgia Straight: Demand for smoke-free housing on the rise in Metro Vancouver

Article by Stuart Kreisman mentioned: Toward smoke-free multi-unit dwellings

Survey showing that 80% of Ontarians living in apartments, condominiums or housing co-ops want to live in a smoke-free building: 80% of People Living in Apartments, Condos and Co-ops Want to Live Smoke Free

The Conservative Party of Canada is telling us that crime is something we should be concerned about. They want to increase mandatory sentences (especially for drug-related offenses), limit pardons, and, presumably, build more prisons.

There was also a press release from the Fraser Institute, dutifully reproduced by the Toronto Sun, telling us that tobacco smuggling is a problem, and the way to solve this problem is to reduce taxes on cigarettes.

We've heard this before, and we've also heard that the Fraser Institute wants to abolish public health care, public schools, and provincial and federal parks. Most Canadians who are aware that the Fraser Institute exists regard them as cranks, but they still get very generous media coverage.

Now, here's a couple of news stories that the Canadian media is not telling us about:

Article by Paul Christopher Webster in the Canadian Medical Association Journal: Tobacco control measures under industry assault

Excerpt: "Tobacco industry bids to undermine tobacco prevention and control measures by mounting legal challenges based on international trade treaties appear to have become all the rage, to the dismay of public health advocates. Australia, Norway and Uruguay now face such trade-related lawsuits. Two similar suits against Thailand and the United States were recently settled in the industry’s favour. And as [Dr. Margaret] Chan indicated, legal skirmishing underway at the World Trade Organization suggests that many more countries will soon join the list of industry targets."

To hear their proponents tell the tale, you could be excused for believing that e-cigarettes are the health equivalent of the Second Coming.

The most harmful part of smoking is the smoke, which e-cigarettes eliminate while keeping the experience of smoking. Physically resembling cigarettes, they are actually electronic devices containing a cartridge of liquid nicotine solution that is heated and vaporized for inhalation.

For addicted smokers, e-cigarettes are a kinder, gentler way to needlessly empty their wallets into a wealthy corporation’s bank account in order to gratify an artificially manufactured craving for a toxic non-essential.

But e-cigarette proponents resolutely refuse to address the two major flaws in their argument.

Backwards burden of proof. They believe that e-cigarette use or “vaping” should be permitted everywhere that smoking is not. Then, if in 50 or 60 years we find out that, like secondhand smoke, e-cigarette vapour harms bystanders, we can spend another 30 to 50 years fighting to outlaw their use in public. They describe anyone who objects to being volunteered as a lab rat to protect their comfort and convenience as a heartless zealot at best and genocidal maniac at worst.

Irrelevant safety standard. Few doubt that inhaling e-cigarette vapor is safer than smoking. Or for that matter, leaping in front of an oncoming train. Or gargling drain cleaner. If we used smoking as a benchmark against which to measure acceptable safety standards for everything, there would not be much left in the world to describe as harmful.

Add Tanzania to the list of countries where child labour is used in the harvesting of tobacco. Article by Ludovick Kazoka in Tanzania Daily News: Combating child labour in tobacco areas

Excerpt: "These children work long hours without rest or food, endure extreme weather without appropriate gear, carry heavy loads that can affect their growth, face exposure to harmful agrochemicals, and do not have time to go school. On average, they work 8 to 12 hours per day."