Monday, October 25, 2010

88 year old smoker to be thrown into the street by housing association

I've written several articles over the past couple of years about the treatment afforded seniors at the hands of anti-smoker fanatics. I've expressed my concern for the elderly and infirm in senior's homes forced outside to have a cigarette in the severe, inhospitable weather conditions that are so much a part of Canadian winters.

In 2007, a worker at a Manitoulin Island (Ontario) long-term care home was charged with, and later acquitted of, criminal negligence causing death in the case of a
resident who died of exposure after he was forced to go outside, in minus 16 degrees Celsius cold, to have a smoke. Murray Miles Patterson, 65, a resident of the Manitoulin Lodge in Gore Bay died Jan. 17, 2007 at an area hospital.

The Smoke Free Ontario Act allows the creation of designated smoking rooms in long-term care facilities and psychiatric hospitals. Unfortunately, most facilities have decided not to build them, forcing many elderly, frail and often sick long-term smokers who can't, or won't, kick their habit to smoke outside.

Health Minister George Smitherman suggested at the time it was a "copout" to blame the government's anti-smoking law for the death. Smitherman is an ass and his response itself is the cop out.

Now, Calgary based Bishop O'Byrne Housing for Seniors Association is
planning to evict an 88 year old woman because she's a smoker. Philipina Schergevitch, has been a resident of the Francis Klein Centre, which is operated by the association, for the last ten years. The life long smoker, who has been smoking since she was fifteen, has been told her lease will not be renewed; to pack up and find alternate living accommodation by the end of the month.

Myrt Butler, the association's chief administrative officer, said the board of directors voted five years ago to implement a no-smoking policy in all of its Calgary units. In 2009, residents were given one-year notice there would be a ban on smoking in suites, effective July 31, 2010. Short-term leases were signed with smoking tenants so they could either adjust or find alternative housing.

Tenants are allowed to smoke in designated exterior areas, Butler said.

How compassionate of them; how caring; how fucking condescending. To demand that elderly seniors either quit or do their smoking outside, exposed to the elements and all the adverse health consequences that entails for an individual of advanced years; colds, flu, pneumonia. This is incoherent, irrational thinking, devoid of any sense of proportionality.

The Non-Smokers Rights Association, the Canadian Cancer Society, and the other anti-smoker bastards are likely rubbing their hands in glee at the thought of putting the boots to an 88 year old smoker. After all, that's why they exist; to make life as miserable as possible for smokers, and damn the consequences.

And, what about the government?

According to neighbour, Carol James, "These are independent apartments, subsidized for low-income seniors and they have to find something like it, but there's very little out there."

If these are subsidized units, then the subsidy is likely provided by some level of government. Will the government agency responsible do anything to prevent this travesty of justice. Or does the government believe this is an appropriate mechanism to “motivate” seniors to give up their smoking habit?

The evidence used to justify smoking bans in multi-unit rental buildings is rooted in studies of prolonged exposure to secondhand smoke, usually over a lifetime, and the onset of chronic diseases like lung cancer and cardiovascular disease. The amount of secondhand smoke required to generate even a minute elevation in risk has never been accurately measured in those studies. And, the evidence is nowhere near as conclusive as claimed by anti-smoker zealots.

Anti-smoker fanatics rely on the preposterous claim that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. They argue the extreme, and nonsensical, position that, if you can smell, it could kill you. They scour apartment buildings for those who claim to be severely affected by even the tiniest exposure to SHS. And a dumbed down media dutifully disseminates their propaganda as if it were the norm.

But there has never, repeat - never, been a study on the health effects from secondhand smoke drifting through solid walls, through plumbing or electrical fixtures or air vents. The amount of exposure required to cause adverse health effects of any kind under these conditions has never been measured. The number of people adversely affected has never been quantified.

If landlords want to ban smokers renting apartments because a small number of residents consider it a nuisance, they should be free to do so. But, they should not be invoking public health concerns to justify their bigotry. The evidence simply doesn't exist.

Throwing an 88 year old woman into the streets offers some insight into the real motivation of the power hungry bastards in the anti-smoker “movement” and their politics of fear. They simply hate smokers.

All Canadians, smokers and non-smokers alike, should be expressing their indignation at this travesty. It will take only a few minutes of your time to tell the bigots at Bishop O'Byrne Housing for Seniors Association what you think about this outrage, committed in the name of “public health”.

As for the anti-smoker fanatics and their lap dogs in the press . . . fuck'em.

Send them an Email:
Francis Klein Centre - Email:
Bishop O'Byrne Housing for Seniors Association - Email:

Read some of my previous comments on this subject.
Throw smokers into the street say anti-smokers
Secondhand smoke travels through solid walls
Secondhand smoke and multi-unit dwellings

A few bloggers in the UK have picked up on this story and plan to send a letter of protest to Bishop O'Byrne Housing for Seniors Association. You can find details at the The Smoking Doctor or F2C Scotland. If you want to sign the letter of protest, you can send your name and email address to Or write your own email and send it to one of the addresses given above.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Anti-smoker zealots neither normal nor legitimate

Ontario's anti-smoker zealots are calling for dramatic new initiatives intended to force smokers to give up the habit. These measures include smoking bans in multi-unit rental buildings, smoking bans on bar and restaurant patios, in city parks, licensing and limiting the number of retail outlets permitted to sell tobacco products, and a host of others draconian initiatives intended to denigrate, demean and “de-normalize” those who choose to use tobacco products.

“I think we’ve gone as far as we’re prepared to go right now,” said Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, in response to a 44 page report prepared by TSAG. “There’s only so much government can and should do.”

Margaret Best, Ontario's Minister of Health Propaganda, echoed the premier's sentiments to some degree; "We are not looking at any further bans with respect to smoking at this point in time. " However, she noted that, although the proposal to extend smoking bans to patios, doorway areas and rental units is not likely to become a reality, the government is willing to consider the report's other recommendations.

The less than enthusiastic response by the premier and the health propaganda minister is likely due to the fact that a provincial election is scheduled for October of next year. McGuinty and his crew have acquired a reputation for their attempts at socially engineering personal behaviour. They aren't anxious to antagonize a sizable part of the electorate, Ontario's two million smokers, with yet another draconian exercise in behavioural control.

A government-appointed advisory panel called TSAG (Tobacco Strategy Advisory Group) compiled the report entitled “Building On Our Gains, Taking Action Now: Ontario’s Tobacco Control Strategy for 2011-2016.” The panel included representatives from the Canadian Cancer Society, Ontario Campaign for Action on Tobacco, Ontario Tobacco Research Unit, Non-Smokers' Rights Association, Ontario Medical Association, Ontario Lung Association, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario and the Ontario Public Health Association among others.

The advisory panel notes in their report: “It's time to renew and extend Ontario's tobacco control strategy with a focused, aggressive campaign to 'de-normalize' and 'de-legitimize' the tobacco manufacturing industry.” Uh-huh.

Does this mean that tobacco farmers are not to be considered normal or legitimate? How about convenience store owners who rely on tobacco sales for a substantial portion of their income? Are the working men and women employed directly by the tobacco companies no longer paying their taxes and contributing to the economy? How about those employed on the periphery of the industry; the paper manufacturers, printers, truck drivers, wholesalers, etc. Is it really acceptable to discard these workers as not normal or legitimate?

If the tobacco industry is neither normal nor legitimate, what should we make of provincial and federal governments who profit so handsomely from the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products? According to Physicians for a Smoke-free Canada, the federal and provincial governments confiscated 6.97 billion dollars in sin taxes for fiscal 2007/2008. That's actually down from the record high of $7.65 billion set in fiscal 2003/2004. Compare those numbers to estimated health care costs nationwide of $4.36 billion, also estimated by Physicians for a Smoke-free Canada, for 2006.

Should we consider the politicians who support these usurious levels of tobacco taxation abnormal or illegitimate? Should we not save some public vitriol for these governments who make many times more money from the sales of tobacco products than the tobacco companies themselves earn in profits?

And let's not forget the anti-smoker cartel.

The advisory panel also wants increased tobacco control funding, noting that the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines recommend a jurisdiction of Ontario's size spend at least $100 million. The province currently spends $42.8 million on tobacco control, down from $60 million annually in both 2007-2008 and 2008-2009.

In effect, the anti-smoker parasites want to feather their own nest with money extorted from smokers well into the forseeable future. Further increases in price can potentially decrease the harm caused to the health of Ontarians and provide a source of dedicated revenue for a comprehensive tobacco control system.”

The hypocritical bastards want to de-normalize the tobacco companies, and by extension those who use tobacco products, while at the same time demanding that smokers pay their often exorbitant salaries and fund activities intended to denigrate and demean those they claim they want to help; those they claim are the victims of the tobacco companies.

They hype the alleged death and destruction caused by tobacco use, and whine about the associated health care costs, while demanding, and as often as not getting, their cut of the action.

Hypocritical bastards.

And, they admit that their efforts to date have had little or no real influence on tobacco consumption.

“Until recently, smoking rates declined in all age groups in Ontario. This is no longer the case. After years of decline, according to the 2008 Canadian Tobacco Use Monitoring Survey, there has been no statistically significant change in the percentage of current Ontario smokers aged 15 years and older since 2005.

The prevalence of smoking dropped substantially during the 1980's, and while it continued to decline in the 1990’s, the rate of decline began to slow. In recent years, smoking rates have stopped decreasing across North America, and have even started to rise for the first time in some population segments.”

They refuse to acknowledge that their draconian smoking bans and punitive tobacco taxes are part and parcel of the problem, despite a wealth of evidence to the contrary.

"Tobacco control measures such as advertising bans, public awareness campaigns, and point-of-sale display bans have had the cumulative effects of denormalizing traditional cigarette brands, stripping them of the social significance they once had. As big tobacco company brands have been denormalized, there has been growth in demand for 'no-name' cigarettes and discount brands. This bourgeoning demand has been filled by the contraband market through baggies [clear plastic bags of loose cigarettes] and Native brands of cigarettes."
The Ontario Tobacco Research Unit, Anti-Contraband Policy Measures: Evidence for Better Practice, June 2009.

But, rather than follow a more reasonable, more pragmatic course of action, they demand more and more money for law enforcement to contain the contraband problem which they and their political cronies created.

According to the anti-smoker fanatics, the tobacco manufacturing industry is neither normal nor legitimate. The money they generate, on the other hand, is as pure as the driven snow. Ask any politician or anti-smoker zealot.

Did I mention what a hypocritical bunch of bastards they are?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Protecting kids from the sight of cigarettes

Bob Gee was back in court earlier this month. Gee is the owner of Mader's Tobacco Store in Kentville, Nova Scotia and has been fighting a provincial tobacco regulation which bans tobacco displays. Gee was ordered, under the province’s Tobacco Access Act, to remove his tobacco displays in January, 2007. He refused.

In March, 2008, he was charged with improper storage and display of tobacco products. Gee entered a plea of not guilty claiming the tobacco regulation violated his right to freedom of expression.

Those charges were later stayed while the province amended the law to allow retailers to display their tobacco products through a catalogue which could be viewed by consumers when making tobacco purchases. Presumably, the government believed that by allowing Gee to display his tobacco product line via a catalogue, they were no longer violating his right to freedom of expression.

Gee still refused to take down his tobacco displays and, in July, 2009, he was once again charged with improper storage and display of tobacco products.

Earlier this year, a provincial court judge ruled that the law did indeed violate Gee's right to freedom of expression. That was back in August. The ruling placed the onus on the province to prove that infringing on Gee's right to freedom of expression is reasonable and for the public good.

On October 7, lawyers for the attorney-general and the Crown told Judge Claudine MacDonald they needed more time to prepare for the case. Just another of many delays requested by, and granted to, the Crown. The new date for the hearing is June, 2011.

The outcome of the case could have far reaching consequences. Bans on so-called point of sale displays have been implemented in all provinces across Canada. Should the Crown be unable to convince the court that bans on tobacco displays are, in fact, in the public interest, then all of those bans are could be compromised.

Rob Cunningham, of the Canadian Cancer Society, claims the case is a public health issue. "These laws remain very important for public health. All 13 provinces and territories in Canada have legislation banning tobacco displays."

Provincial court judge Claudine MacDonald has already ruled that displaying a product conveys a meaning and can therefore be regarded as an "expressive activity" protected by Canada's Charter of Rights. The question remaining is whether the law is a reasonable means of protecting some compelling public interest which would override Gee's right to freedom of expression.

The reasoning behind the bans, put forth by anti-smoker zealots like the Canadian Cancer Society, is that the tobacco displays encourage kids to start smoking. The zealots claim that even the sight of a cigarette package will entice kids to adopt the smoking habit. But, there's absolutely no evidence, scientific or otherwise, to support that contention.

Other countries have considered tobacco display bans but rejected the idea because the evidence was speculative and not proven to reduce smoking rates. Two such countries were Denmark and Sweden, where bans on point of sales displays were debated in their respective parliaments earlier this year.

“Canada has introduced a so-called point of sale display ban on tobacco, which means that the packs are not allowed to be visible. This does not mean that there has been any noticeable effect on consumption. Some provinces have even seen an increase.” (Jan R Andersson, Swedish MP, June 15, 2010)

“If there was a clearly documented effect from putting all tobacco in boxes behind dark curtains, we could maybe consider it, but we do not believe that the few countries who have implemented something similar can document any real effect.” (Bertel Haarder, Danish Minister of Interior and Health, May 27, 2010)

And, in the absence of any evidence, how can it be considered reasonable to prohibit a retailer from displaying a legal product line?

Nor is there any evidence to suggest that an adult trying to quit smoking will break down at the mere sight of a pack of smokes and take up smoking again. Cigarettes, clearly, are not an impulse item.

Junk food, however, in the form of candy bars and soda pop, are impulse items. And, over the last couple of years, childhood obesity has been identified as a serious public health issue. But, would it be considered reasonable to force grocery stores or corner stores to hide the pop, candy bars and potato chips lest children be tempted to buy them and risk becoming obese?

Anti-smoker zealots were very successful in convincing gullible politicians that it was morally objectionable to have tobacco products displayed where they could be seen by children; that legislation was needed to eliminate the remote possibility that tobacco displays might encourage kids to pick up the habit. Politicians, eager to score a few cheap brownie points with their constituents, were quick to buy into the emotional appeal of “protecting the children.”

The courts, on the other hand, will be looking for evidence. And, the courts will hear both sides of the debate; not just the one-sided argument presented by anti-smoker fanatics and the press.

The sale of tobacco products to minors is illegal. That's a justifiable prohibition. Protecting children from the sight of a cigarette pack, however, is neither justified nor reasonable.

Bob Gee, at 66, says he just wants to retire and turn the business over to his son. The province of Nova Scotia is probably just wishing he'd go away.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Health warnings to provoke “discomfort and disgust”

The Canadian government has postponed plans for graphic new warning labels on cigarette packs. And, that, of course, has got anti-smoker groups pissed off.

"I would have expected that large warnings would be announced by now . . . the government hasn't really given a clear reason why and I can't conceive of a good reason why," said Rob Cunningham of the Canadian Cancer Society.

Graphic warnings on cigarette packs have been required in Canada since 2001. Anti-smoker zealots claim the current labels are no longer effective and need to be made even more repulsive and pornographic if they are to be successful in coercing, er . . . encouraging, smokers to quit. And, of course, they have to be made much larger since smokers are apparently too blind to read the existing messages.

Currently, the labels cover half the surface of the pack, front and back, with messages reminding smokers of the health risks of smoking and urging them to quit. We must assume the graphic warnings are directed exclusively at smokers, since cigarette packs are hidden from view in retail outlets selling cigarettes and other tobacco products to adult consumers.

The federal government decision to shelve plans for larger, more graphic labels was announced in September.

"Health Canada continues to examine the renewal of health warning messages on tobacco packaging but is not ready to move forward at this time," a spokeswoman told Reuters in a September 29, 2010 article.

The government apparently wants to concentrate on the fight against contraband which is costing senior levels of government hundreds of millions in lost revenue from tobacco taxes annually.

Unfortunately for the government, the tobacco companies are also losing money due to ever-increasing sales of contraband.

Imperial Tobacco spokesman Eric Gagnon claims contraband tobacco costs the industry between $875 million and C$1 billion a year. "The biggest tobacco problem in Canada today is contraband. So increasing a health warning on a product that already has a 50 percent health warning -- and is also hidden from public view -- is not a public health initiative."

And, the tobacco company's support of Conservative government efforts to control contraband has allowed the loyal opposition to accuse the government of pandering to the tobacco industry and protecting industry profits. "This government is listening to the business lobby, the tobacco lobby," said Liberal MP, Ujjal Dosanjh, a former federal Minister of Health.

The government announcement prompted a nasty rebuke from anti-smoker zealots at Montreal's Concordia University. An article from the Concordian also questions the governments motives. “After millions of public dollars were spent on this campaign, how is it that the plan could simply be scrapped? And for what? To aid tobacco companies in the war against contraband cigarettes, which will essentially lead to putting more money in their pockets?”

The article by Lindsay Sykes asks: “Is it fear of the discomfort and disgust these images will invoke in people that has this plan being taken off the table for now? Isn't that the purpose of these images, after all; to be a preventative measure for future smokers and a motivation to quit for those who already smoke?”

Of course, larger, more disgusting images might also motivate more smokers to buy contraband. There are no warning labels on the clear plastic bags sold from the trunk of a car. And, they're a damn sight cheaper than the “legal” variety.

To end on a more humourous note, the federal Liberals recently launched a proposal to provide funding for Canadians providing essential home care to family members so they wouldn't have to quit their jobs.

The Liberals introduced their billion dollar home-care plan with a glossy brochure which featured a photo depicting two generations of a happy, smiling family. Unfortunately, one of the family members was enjoying a cigarette during the photo shoot.

Maybe the the photographer was a smoker who saw nothing abnormal about a guy having a quick puff while having his picture taken.

The faux pas, however, did not escape the attention of Prime Minister Stephen Harper . “I look at this brochure where on page six the Liberals talk about health care and on page four they promote somebody smoking,” he chided. Ouch.

No wonder the Liberals were so quick to take issue with the governments decision to delay those graphic warnings. They had to show they were just as tough on smokers as those other fellas.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Piecemeal prohibition – the anti-smoker agenda

The anti-smoker brigade and their allies in government will tell you at every opportunity that smoking is the single biggest cause of preventable death worldwide. The question which immediately arises is why the zealots don't simply lobby for outright prohibition on the manufacture and distribution of tobacco products?

And, the short answer is that it's all about the money.

For example, the anti-smoker cult in the US is lamenting a substantial loss of funding as governments at the state level reduce the amount of financial support provided to the anti-smoker zealots. “Overall funding on tobacco control is down because of dramatic cuts in state spending in recent years,” Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, told the New York Times in July, 2010.

The Times article also noted that, according to a report prepared for the anti-smoker fanatics, state funding for anti-tobacco programs dropped to $567 million last year, from $717 million two years earlier, a 21 percent decline in anti-smoker spending in just two years. The report bears the logos of the biggest players in the anti-smoker industry; the Cancer Action Network, the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, and of course, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

And, there can be little doubt that anti-smoking has morphed into an industry. A cute little chart in the report shows that state governments confiscated 209.3 billion dollars from tobacco consumers from 2000 to 2010, while spending “only” 7.04 billion on “tobacco prevention”. That doesn't include the additional billions from federal excise taxes.

Nor does the spending on tobacco control include spending by the federal government or foundations such as the Robert Wood Johnston Foundation, the Legacy Foundation or funding provided by the pharmaceutical industry.

It's clear that full scale prohibition would have an immediate and dramatic adverse impact on tax revenue for governments at all levels. In truth, governments have become addicted to the revenue generated by tobacco taxes. The anti-smoker cult simply can't afford to antagonize their political allies by demanding full scale prohibition and jeopardizing that tax revenue.

In turn, the loss in tax revenue would have an adverse impact on the funding levels of the the anti-smoker zealots and compromise their ability to conduct their denormalization campaign against smokers.

There are additional negative consequences to outright prohibition of tobacco products which might make it unacceptable to government: the resulting job loss in the tobacco industry and small business enterprises (convenience stores, for example) dependent on tobacco sales for substantial portions of their income, the prospect of a flourishing black market, and the strong possibility of a public backlash against such draconian infringement on personal liberties.

The immediate financial and social consequences of prohibition could be catastrophic. And, there would be no resulting compensatory benefit from savings in health care costs for decades, if they materialize at all.

This leaves the anti-smoker fanatics, and the blinkered governments which support them, in a very difficult position. Despite their ultimate goal (the eradication of smokers), they can't afford the social and economic disruption which would result from outright prohibition.

So, they continue their efforts to denormalize smokers and make smoking unacceptable in the eyes of the general public, while they consider the ways and means of achieving their ultimate objective.

These problems are acknowledged in a recent research paper from Singapore: “Thus, although the endpoint of a total ban is highly desirable, the political reality is that it is only by a phased, long-term introduction that such a ban is likely to be achieved.”

And, their solution?

“We propose, alongside current under-age bans, the introduction of laws banning the provision of tobacco to any citizen born in or after a specific year, suggesting the year 2000 as it is convenient for recall by all parties. The proposal introduces the concept of tobacco-free generations that will never legally be able to take up the harmful habit of smoking, at any age.”

Uh-huh. As far as smoking is concerned, no one born after 2000 would ever reach adulthood; they would never be legally permitted to buy or use tobacco – ever.

The authors of the paper believe such a gradual approach to prohibition would eliminate the current obstacles to achieving their utopian smoke free society. “Our proposal minimizes immediate hardship to tobacco stakeholders. Those currently legally smoking maintain the legal right to continue.”

It's a novel idea; stripping future adults of their rights while they're too young to appreciate the difference. But if that idea seems a little over-the-top, the fanatics are also exploring other alternatives.

For example, another proposal mentioned in the research paper would ”transfer responsibility for manufacturing and supplying tobacco to an enterprise with the mandate to achieve a timetabled reduction in tobacco”.

According to that proposal: “The elimination of profit driven behaviour from the supply of tobacco would enhance the ability of public health authorities to reduce tobacco use.” Uh-huh. Just nationalize the tobacco industry, turn it over to some unidentified non-profit (anti-smoker) authority and let them gradually choke off the supply of tobacco.

Many years ago, we used a process, most often referred to as brainstorming, as a problem-solving technique. The idea was simply to consider all possible solutions to a problem, no matter how preposterous. But, those potential solutions considered too far-fetched usually wound up in the discard bin.

Obviously, to the anti-smoker fanatics, no solution to the “tobacco problem” is too radical.