Where there’s smoke

Letter to the editor published in the South Delta Leader:

Dear Editor, thank you for your Aug. 22 ‘Readerpoll’ question: “Has the recent car fire aboard a B.C. Ferry made you question the service’s safety?”

As a 30-year B.C. Ferry employee (currently a Second Officer), I would suggest that there’s no need to question the service’s safety, certainly not as a result of this particular fire, or the majority of shipboard fires, for that matter. The crews are very well-trained to deal with any and all emergencies, including those (fires, and, if they get out of control, abandon ship procedures) which result from the use of a product which management refuses to take seriously and address effectively.

Whether or not the Aug. 15 fire was caused by a smouldering cigarette (personally, I’m not aware of any mattress that has ever spontaneously combusted), cigarette-ignited fires are the leading cause of shipboard fires, yet B.C. Ferry Services stubbornly refuses to ban smoking, entirely, aboard all B.C. Ferry vessels and on the terminals, as our neighbours to the south—Washington State Ferries (WSF)—successfully did years ago. In fact, despite my suggestions to do so, nobody from BCFS has even bothered to pick up a telephone and call WSF and discuss any and all concerns BCFS may have about implementing such a ban—and how WSF dealt with those issues!

BCFS’s justification for not banning smoking, entirely? Two extremely weak/false arguments: 1) We’re a public transportation system, and we have to cater to/accommodate all of our passengers; and 2) How would such a ban ever be enforced?

BCFS could—if “safety” truly was its number one priority—in conjunction with a complete smoking ban, provide one or more of the dozens of nicotine replacement therapies (nicotine gum, lozenges, rubs, inhalers, etc.). Problem solved: Smokers get their hit of nicotine and all the rest of us enjoy a smoke-free environment, indoors and out, with a dramatically-reduced risk of fire!

To the second argument: the “enforcement” red herring has been raised prior to each and every smoking ban that has ever occurred; most notably, bar and pub smoking bans. And, in each and every case, it turns out that enforcement is not an issue at all (since the vast majority of smokers are good, law-abiding citizens, assuming, of course, that the law is well-advertised, clearly posted, etc.), yet “enforcement” continues to be one of the most persistent tobacco industry-perpetuated “doom and gloom” myths associated with smoking bans.

Tragically, terrorism is a very real threat nowadays, 2010 is fast approaching and barbed-wire fencing is now being installed at BCFS terminals. If recent history is any indication, I think smoking on board ferries is a much bigger threat than terrorism ever will be. And if enforcement of the No Smoking law means arresting, charging, fining and/or jailing smokers, as has been done on many occasions on airlines), then so be it.

And, speaking of terrorism: smoking kills more people worldwide every six hours than were killed in all of the 9/11 attacks. Sort of makes you wonder who the real terrorists are, doesn’t it?

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

Thank you, Project A.B.L.E. donors

With just one month to go until lifetime Airspace member Tamina Gurd and her two daughters (ages 10 and 13) embark on a huge humanitarian aid effort in Malawi (Africa), Airspace would like to publicly thank all of the individuals/families who have so very generously donated to Project A.B.L.E. (A Better Life for Everyone) thus far.

Unfortunately, the need for further funding still exists. Please continue to support Airspace...and Project A.B.L.E.

Just a few of our more recent successes, as well as some ongoing efforts:

- Just a few weeks ago, Airspace played a pivotal role in getting Susan Ivey, President and CEO of Reynolds American (one of the biggest tobacco companies in the world) kicked out of the White Ribbon Alliance... in just 3 days (the WRA's current campaign focuses on reducing/eliminating the horrendous death toll of women in childbirth);

- Airspace also played a big role in persuading pop star Alicia Keys to give the royal boot to the tobacco company ("A MIld") which -- until just a week prior to her July 31 concert in Jakarta, Indonesia -- was the main sponsor. Just days after putting that fire out, we became involved in the effort to get the Eraserheads to scrap the "Marlboro" sponsorship of their August 30 reunion concert in the Philippines;

- We helped tobacco farmers achieve their $300,000,000 exit package (announced August 1), via collecting signatures on a petition and lobbying Members of Parliament. Unfortunately, that is $300 million of taxpayers' dollars, whereas our plan called for a levy (of anywhere from a nickel to a quarter, per package) on cigarettes, which could have raised a billion dollars (the original target) in very short order, at little or no cost to taxpayers...at least, that vast majority of taxpayers who do not smoke. In any case, with virtually no tobacco farming occurring in Canada now, all levels of government have no excuse whatsoever for continuing to treat the Canadian tobacco industry with kid gloves. It's time to end the long-standing slap-on-the-wrist policies...and start treating the industry like the sleazy, despicable, predatory and rogue industry that it truly is;

- Airspace President Errol E. Povah is largely responsible for Canada's -- possibly the world's -- first 100% smoke-free condominium. The 42-unit Oliva, in the Tsawwassen area of Delta, B.C. opened in June, 2007. It took several phone calls over a period of a couple of months (while the project was still under construction) but, since the president and CEO of the company was very interested in making it a 'green' building (with many of the materials being recycled and/or otherwise 'environmentally-friendly', etc.), Povah managed to persuade him that "100% smoke-free" would be a perfect fit. We continue our lobbying efforts, provincially, for legislation that will provide 100% smoke-free living in ALL multi-unit dwellings (apartments, condos, townhomes, duplexes, basement suites, etc.).

- We are stepping up our efforts to get Canada to comply with both the intent of (if not the letter of) existing federal anti-tobacco legislation, as well as a World Health Organization treaty -- the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control -- which Canada ratified a few years ago. One of the most blatant local offenders is the Georgia Straight, Vancouver's so-called News and Entertainment weekly... in which it's not uncommon to see 3 or 4 full-page full-colour tobacco ads (for both cigarettes and snus/chewing tobacco).

Again, thank you so much to ALL of our members and/or donors, past, present and future...but an especially big THANK YOU to those who have already so generously donated to Project A.B.L.E.

If you would like to donate, please send your cheque to: Airspace Action on Smoking and Health Box 18004, 1215c 56th St. Delta, B.C. V4L 2M4 And please be sure to write "Project A.B.L.E." in the "memo" space.

You can also contribute to us with PayPal (click button below).

For more info about Project A.B.L.E., please contact Tamina Gurd via e-mail, at taminac AT shaw.ca.

No butt ad in the Georgia Straight? This is blasphemous!

What? No butt ads in the August 7, 08 Georgia Straight...Vancouver's news and entertainment weakly? This is blasphemous!

After all, the tobacco industry and the GS have been very proud partners -- in promoting the #1 leading addiction... which, in turn, is responsible for the leading causes of disease, disability and premature death -- for decades! They haven't had a falling out, have they? Or perhaps one of the senior staff at the GS has developed smoking-induced lung cancer? Or -- and I'm really going out on a limb here -- perhaps the GS has found its conscience!?!

Whatever the problem might be, I'm sure it's just a temporary glitch; nothing that tens of thousands of blood-stained dollars won't fix!

While there may have been a few brief breaks in the butt ads in the past, the GS has been consistently running tobacco ads for years... both chewing tobacco/snus ads and butt (cigarette) ads. Recent issues have contained as many as four full-page ads for one 'new and improved' butt or another.

As far as that pesky federal law that outlaws tobacco advertising, who cares? It's so full of loopholes that you could drive a stolen semi loaded with contraband cigarettes through it! While the GS may not be violating the letter of the [very weak] law, it is blatantly violating the intent of the law. And then there's the small matter of a World Health Organization treaty -- the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control -- that Canada ratified years ago. Whether it's provincial or federal law -- or the FCTC -- tobacco-friendly governments clearly don't give a damn, regarding beefing up existing legislation or, where necessary, creating new legislation...and, of course, when required, enforcing the law.

Here's one more theory, regarding the noticeable absence of butt ads in the August 7 issue: Maybe it's because the cover story has the words "crisis" and "genocide" in it ("crisis darfur: On the eve of the Beijing Olympics, Mia Farrow is highlighting China's contribution to genocide").

With all due respect to everyone in Darfur, nobody...NOBODY...does 'crisis and genocide' -- not to mention rape and pillage --quite like the tobacco industry!

Lowering the Tobacco Industry's reputation

Cartoon by Gable in Globe and MailA letter to the editor published in the Globe and Mail:

Funny as your Aug. 2 editorial cartoon was - likening tobacco executives to sewer rats - it truly is an example of art imitating life. Just a day earlier, after the $1.15-billion fine was imposed on Canada's two leading cigarette manufacturers, Imperial Tobacco spokeswoman Catherine Doyle told CTV, "We realize ... we're going to take a hit to our reputation because of this."

She should be fined another billion dollars by the irony police for that statement. When your industry pushes products that lead 45,000 Canadians to an early grave every year (according to Health Canada), what reputation do you have for anyone to hit?

Stan Shatenstein
Contributing Editor, Tobacco Control

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

Multinational cigarette companies nailed for $1.15 billion for smuggling

Imperial Tobacco Canada (actually BAT) and Rothmans Benson and Hedges have agreed to pay a total of more than $1-billion in fines and settlement costs for their corporate involvement in smuggling from 1989 to 1994. Article in the Globe and Mail:  Cigarette firms pay $1-billion in record fines, settlement (check out the comments)

The next question is, when will former PM Paul Martin and former RCMP Commissioner Norman Inkster face prosecution for their role in this?

Order of Canada given to tobacco industry executives

Editor, 24 Hours:

Controversial and difficult to define as the word "hero" always has been (it's both used too loosely and, even in well-earned/deserving cases, is often denied by the recipient), I've rarely associated it with either the Nobel Peace Prize or the Order of Canada.

In any case, if Alex G Tsakumis ("Morgentaler's hardly a hero", July 11) is seriously looking for people undeserving of either of the above-mentioned honours -- or the title "hero" -- he need look no further than Paule Gauthier, Doug Bassett and Pierre des Marais II.

"Who are they?", you're probably wondering. So glad you asked.

They're Canadian tobacco executives (See "Three mass tobacco murderers members of the Order of Canada" on calgaryeyeopener.com)... part of an industry that is directly responsible for more deaths (worldwide) EVERY 6 HOURS than all of the 9/11 attacks! Sort of makes you wonder who the real terrorists are, doesn't it?

All recipients -- at least those with a conscience -- should have returned their Orders of Canada the day the honour was bestowed upon those three murderous bastards!

Errol E. Povah

BAT lies again about sales of single cigarettes

British American Tobacco (BAT), the London-based multinational that sells Players, Du Maurier, and Matinee cigarettes in Canada, has once again been exposed as a liar on the subject of cigarette marketing and sales in the Third World; in this case, Nigeria, Malawi and Mauritius. The latest expose comes from Duncan Bannatyne of BBC News: Tobacco giant 'breaks youth code' (click here for a PDF version.)



The story documents BAT efforts to facilitate the sale of single cigarettes, and shows 11-year-olds purchasing these cigarettes. The spokesman for BAT in the story, Professional Liar Chris Proctor, states "If that was the case, that is disappointing, it's certainly not what we would wish to happen." Reporter Duncan Bannatyne says, "British American Tobacco is the unacceptable face of British business."

A very good week for Airspace

As stated previously on this site, a letter sent to all 305 Members of Parliament by Airspace president Errol Povah (in which he calls on the federal government to administer a billion-dollar buy-out fund/exit strategy (that won't cost tax-payers a cent) for about 1,500 Canadian tobacco farmers) was mentioned in the House of Commons -- in a very positive/supportive manner, by Southern Interior (B.C.) NDP MP Alex Atamanenko -- on Tuesday, June 10, 2008... the same day, by the way, that Povah returned from a major international anti-tobacco conference in Washington, DC.

Just three days later (yes, Friday the 13th), Airspace was once again mentioned in a rather prestigious setting: Attending his first Vancouver Board of Trade function, Povah -- and Airspace -- was formally welcomed as one of the newest members of the Board... on board the Holland America cruise ship, the MS Veendam.

The "dam ship" (as all 14 Dutch-named of the fleet are affectionately nick-named, since every one of their names [Amsterdam, Eurodam, Maasdam, etc.] ends with "dam") didn't go anywhere; we were securely tied up at the cruise ship terminal at Canada Place in downtown Vancouver!

It was an incredible 3.5 hours; in addition to a lot of very valuable networking, the group of about 70 Board of Trade members and guests did a little self-guided tour of the ship and enjoyed an awesome lunch, then listened to a very inspirational and motivational speech (about giving back to the community, etc.) by Peter Legge... who has, among many other things, played a major role in raising tens of millions of dollars for GlobalTV B.C.'s Variety Club Telethon over the years, etc.

After Legge's speech, the MC welcomed Airspace and a couple of other new members. Much to Povah's chagrin, nobody from Imperial Tobacco -- also a member of the Board -- stood up and objected to Airspace's membership.

In addition to networking and furthering Airspace's agenda (ultimately, the total eradication of the tobacco industry from the face of the planet), Povah will be lobbying the Board to give Imperial Tobacco the boot: Tobacco companies are not "good corporate citizens" -- and have no place whatsoever in an organization like the Vancouver Board of Trade -- no matter what kind of spin they put on their sleazy, despicable and murderous business.

Airspace turns up in the Hansard

From a speech by Alex Atamanenko (BC Southern Interior-NDP) on June 10, 2008:

I have before me a motion that was passed in the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, which called upon the federal government to immediately implement an exit strategy for tobacco producers consistent with the most recent proposal they had submitted and that it be reported to the House. What is interesting is that the motion passed, but the members of the government voted against it. I cannot quite understand it. Members of the governing party are in agreement with most people and they are saying that some kind of an exit strategy is needed, yet when it comes to a vote in the committee, some kind of directions are received that they have to vote against it. That does not make sense to me.

I have a letter written by a gentleman by the name of Errol Povah, president of Airspace Action on Smoking and Health, addressed to the Conservative member of Parliament for Delta-Richmond East, in which he asks the government to do what is right for tobacco farmers. Copies of this letter were sent to 305 MPs.

Once the industry is not viable and people have invested in it, we have an obligation not only financially, but morally to ensure that these folks have some kind of an exit strategy. I must emphasize once again that we are not saying that they need X number of dollars from government and we have to help them out. What I and others are saying is we need a lead on this from the federal government.

Public sector pension funds invested in tobacco companies

BC Premier Gordon Campbell has a record of friendliness to the tobacco industry that dates back to his time as Mayor of Vancouver. An article in the Vancouver Sun by Gordon Keast reveals that the British Columbia Investment Management Corp., a Crown corporation, has invested government assets in Phillip Morris, Imperial Tobacco, Reynolds American, Rothman's, and Japan Tobacco. Here's the article: Dancing with the devil.
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