Thursday, November 25, 2010

Fighting the haze of secondhand smoke drivel

A special feature in the Toronto Star titled “Smoke get in your eyes - and lungs” was published on Saturday. The on-line edition declares “Tenants and condo dwellers fighting haze of second-hand smoke.” Uh-huh.

“Fighting a haze of secondhand smoke.” Such colourful language. You can almost see the vast cloud of secondhand smoke ferociously forcing its way through solid walls to prey on unsuspecting non-smokers, making life miserable and putting their very lives in jeopardy.

I was out of town over the weekend and I didn't see the Star article until I was handed a copy at a meeting in our own co-op last night.

The article, by Laura Eggerton, begins: “Pamela Schuller thought she was moving her children to a healthy, family-friendly environment when she moved into the Bain Apartments Cooperative in Toronto’s Riverdale neighbourhood.”

But then, in 2003, one of those filthy smokers moved into the lower unit of her stacked townhouse. And her children began complaining the apartment “stunk of smoke and they couldn’t breathe.” Naturally, Schuller became concerned about her health and the health of her children.

And, although she'd heard about such problems, “it was the first time Schuller realized the smoke was putting her health and that of her children at risk.” So, she joined an anti-smoker campaign.

The article goes on to note: “For the next five years, as a member of the Smoke Free Living Initiative at the Bain Coop, Schuller did what a growing number of tenants and condo dwellers are doing across Canada — she fought to get a non-smoking policy in her building. A year ago, with the help of others in the cooperative, she succeeded.”

So the tenants at Bain passed a bylaw stating that whenever both households in a stacked pair of units agree to non-smoking status and submit their request for that designation in writing to the co-op office, the units will be declared smoke-free. A completely voluntary approach to resolve the issue? Or, is it?

If both parties could agree voluntarily that the units should be non-smoking, why was there a need for a by-law? And, what happns if both tenants agree that the units should be designated smoking units?

One interesting thing about the the Star article is that it does not explain how the by-law resolved Schuller's concerns for the health of her children, or if, in fact, the problem was resolved. Did she reach some kind of agreement with those offensive smokers? Did the nasty smokers move out? Was her unit sealed against the diabolical intrusion of secondhand smoke into her personal space? How was the health of her children compromised in the first place? Did they suffer from some preexisting medical condition which made them especially sensitive to tobacco smoke? Is she still being inundated by secondhand smoke?

The article addresses none of these questions. Schuller had served her purpose as a lead-in to a propaganda piece about the healths hazards of secondhand smoke and the need for legislation to protect poor unfortunate non-smokers. Legislation which would make it easier to throw 88-year old seniors into the street.

At no point in the article does the author question the alleged health hazards of secondhand smoke. They are simply assumed to exist. And, a veritable who's who of Canadian anti-smoker activists are quoted, starting with Neil Collishaw, the research director at Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada.

Can you guess what his quote was? Sure you can. “There is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke,” said Collishaw.

“There’s going to be a lot of work done by many at the local level to encourage social housing landlords and other landlords to go smoke-free,” said Michael Perley, director of the Ontario Campaign for Action on Tobacco. Perley was a member of the Tobacco Strategy Advisory Group which recommended that the Ontario government amend the Residential Tenancies Act so landlords could more easily enforce no-smoking clauses in leases.

“I think we’ve gone as far as we’re prepared to go right now,” said Premier Dalton McGuinty. “There’s only so much government can and should do.” Of course, he's facing an election campaign in the coming year and he's a little concerned about the Premier Daddy nickname he's already earned.

“It’s a sensitive issue when you’re talking about people’s homes,” said Pippa Beck, a policy analyst with the Non-Smokers Rights Association. Beck has been touring the country for the past couple of years trying to convince landlords that no smoking policies are perfectly legal and they don't have to worry about discriminating against smokers.

“You don’t need to go very far to find out about the dangers of smoking,” says Evelyn Robertson, a nurse and president of Newtonbrook United Church/Taiwanese United Church Non-Profit Homes in North York, which bans smoking anywhere on the property. “We believed it was our responsibility, as a board, to set a policy that would create a healthy environment.”

But, while the article is heavy on quotes from anti-smoker fanatics, it's completely devoid of any real evidence. And, the reason for that is simple. There is none. Not a single shred of evidence to suggest that the amount of secondhand smoke which might penetrate solid walls or otherwise migrate from one unit to another represents a serious health threat to non-smokers. In fact, the evidence that secondhand smoke presents a serious health threat in any situation remains highly controversial.

Nor was any evidence presented as to the extent of the problem. How many people are affected? Under what conditions? Was any thought given to alternate measures to resolve the problem?

Instead, the author relies on quotes from fanatics that there is broad public support for no smoking policies, as if that were justification for the campaign of discrimination directed at smokers.

And, if you don't believe this kind of lopsided, yellow journalism appeals to the hate mongers, consider this quote from the comments section following the on-line version of the article.

“I would say . . . lets have dedicated rent building just for smokers and other building dedicated for non smokers only. The government should take all taxes off cigarettes/tobacco products and give smokers a deduction for smoking on their income tax filing. This would be in Canada best interests to give them every opportunity possible to Kill themselves. I would sit back and have the time of my life watching them die.”

The only difference between that comment and Eggerton's article is one of degree. And the fact that Eggerton uses slightly better grammar.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Asthma rates decline due to less cigarette smoke?

There was an interesting headline in the Globe and Mail on Wednesday; it read: “Asthma rates decline among children; Statscan cites less cigarette smoke “

The article, by Jill Mahoney, claims that: “So few parents now smoke that there were not statistically significant differences in asthma rates between kids in smoking and non-smoking households between 2006-07 and 2008-09,” before going on to quote from the StatCan article: "This suggests that . . . adult smoking rates have become low enough that parental smoking has ceased to be [a] major cause of asthma in young children." That's quite a leap in logic.

But, there are a few problems with this “suggestion”. For example, according to the Asthma Society of Canada, the causes of asthma remain unknown. “Asthma is not contagious. While its causes are still unknown, researchers have determined that asthma can be caused by both hereditary (inherited) and environmental factors.”

So, in fact, parental smoking has never been identified as a “major” cause of asthma. Even the last US Surgeon General's report stated that evidence implicating secondhand smoke as a cause of asthma is merely suggestive.

And, the truncated quote from the StatCan article omits the claim by study author, Eleanor Thomas, that “reduced exposure to cigarette smoke contributed to declines in asthma over time.”

The full quote from the Statcan article reads: “Again, this suggests that reduced exposure to cigarette smoke contributed to declines in asthma over time, and that adult smoking rates have become low enough that parental smoking has ceased to be major cause of asthma in young children.”

That's two misleading claims based on that single quote, because Thomas is saying simply that the evidence suggests SHS exposure may have contributed to the alleged decline in asthma rates. But to do so, she ignores decades of previous data.

Physicians for a Smoke-free Canada has a chart showing that smoking prevalence began to decline in 1965 for men and about ten years later for women. Smoking prevalence rates have continued to fall for both men and women since 1975.

A “ fact sheet” from the Asthma Society notes that there was a dramatic increase in the incidence of asthma, beginning in 1980, which didn't level off until sometime after 2000. The Globe and Mail article points out this increase: “Researchers in western countries have generally found that asthma rates among children increased steadily for several decades before levelling off or even declining.”

The Asthma Society fact sheet also notes a dramatic increase in asthma rates during this period: “The prevalence of asthma among adults (15 years of age and over) has been increasing over the last 20 years. 1979 asthma incidence was 2.3 per cent, in 1988 it was 4.9 per cent, and by 1994 it had increased to 6.1 per cent of the population. “

Just to make it clear, asthma rates had been steadily increasing at the same time that smoking prevalence had been falling. And, declining rates of smoking prevalence, coupled with smoking bans in public places, including public transportation, should have resulted in reduced exposure to SHS beginning around 1975. Shouldn't we have seen at least some slight decline in asthma rates during that time frame, rather than such a sizable increase (roughly 165%).

Yet we have a claim by the study author that her study “suggests” that reduced exposure to cigarette smoke contributed to declines in asthma over time.

The real question is why the incidence of asthma went up in the first place. Smoking can't be tagged as the cause of the phenomenal increase in asthma rates between 1979 and 2000/2001; smoking prevalence was declining during that same period.

And, claiming that Thomas was only considering asthma rates for children ages 2 to 7 won't justify the claim that reduced exposure to SHS contributed to the recent decline. As noted in her article, “The prevalence of asthma among children aged 2 to 7 rose steadily until 2000/2001 and then fell.” Asthma rates were increasing across the board, in all age groups.

The Globe and Mail article includes another quote from the study: "A wide range of environmental factors, including reduced exposure to cigarette smoke, may have contributed to these trends."

That's an accurate quote from the study summary.

However, there's another quote in the body of the StatCan article which elaborates: “A number of environmental factors may be related to the recent declines in childhood ear infections and asthma: changes in the population structure; changes in diagnostic practices; decreases in the prevalence of respiratory allergies; improvements in air quality; changes in hygiene practices (particularly, in child care settings); and reductions in children’s exposure to cigarette smoke at home. An investigation of most of these factors is beyond the scope of this paper, but the possible role of exposure to cigarette smoke can be considered.”

So, the evidence, as related by Thomas and the Globe and Mail, is only one of many potential factors which may have contributed to the decline. What should we make of this study and the blaring headline that declining rates of asthma in children are the result of reduced cigarette smoke?

No investigation was made to explain the tremendous increase in asthma rates at the same time smoking prevalence was declining. No investigation was conducted to determine the role of the numerous other factors which may have contributed to the apparent decline among children between 2 and 7 years old. They were “beyond the scope of this paper”.

No comparison was made between asthma rates pre-1980, when smoking prevalence was high and almost all kids would have been exposed to SHS. The comparison was made between rates of asthma in 2000/2001, when the increase in asthma rates had apparently peaked, and 2006/2007 when the first downward trend was noted.

It's difficult to believe that the decline in smoker prevalence from 1975 onwards had no affect on the incidence of asthma until 2006/2007, and then, only among those aged 2 to 7.

Objective science? Or a blatant attempt to justify smoking bans and smoker denormalization? You be the judge.

Monday, November 15, 2010

New study: No evidence linking SHS and lung cancer

“There's no safe level of exposure.” That's the oft repeated mantra of anti-smoker zealots warning of the alleged dangers of secondhand smoke exposure. The quote, attributed to former US Surgeon-General, Richard Carmona, is usually expressed with all the reverence due a religious text.

The evidence is conclusive; unambiguous; proven beyond a reasonable doubt . . . or so say the zealots. But what's the scientific reality?

A new Canadian study finds no evidence that exposure to secondhand smoke contributes to lung cancer. The study, conducted in Toronto, Ontario, states: “Among never smokers in our population, we observed no association between either exposure to ETS at home or at the workplace and lung cancer risk.“

The study, was published online, at BioMed Central, in June of this year. The authors included researchers from several prestigious organizations, including the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine, Princess Margaret Hospital (Toronto's most well known cancer treatment facility), Women's College Health Research Institute and Mount Sinai Hospital Family Medicine Clinic, all based in Toronto.

A study from such reputable sources must have generated a fair amount of media attention, at least here in Canada. Right? And, perhaps it did.

But, if it did . . . well , maybe “I got stoned and I missed it”, to quote an old song by Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show from back in the seventies.

At any rate, I didn't hear about the Canadian study until I followed a link to a Danish blog a few days ago. Uh-huh. I had to go half way round the world to find out what's happening in my own back yard.

The blogger, journalist Klaus Kjellerup, quotes lead author of the study, Darren Brennner of the University of Toronto: "Passive smoking at home and at work has been investigated in numerous studies, but results have been small and insignificant. A meta-analysis of 34 studies show 20% increased risk, but only 7 of the 34 studies showed significantly increased risk.”

Brenner was apparently referring to the 1993 meta-analysis conducted by the US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) which was branded a blatant fraud by US District Court Judge, William Osteen, in 1998. The EPA study is among a relative handful of studies which found a (very) small relative risk between SHS and lung cancer/heart disease, but only after manipulating data to conform to their predetermined conclusion.

In fact, as noted often on this blog, the vast majority of studies on the subject find no relationship between lung cancer and SHS. Some (the IARC study conducted on behalf of the WHO) even found a negative association between SHS exposure in kids and lung cancer in later life, suggesting a protective effect from childhood exposure.

Author and epidemiologist, Geoffrey Kabat, claims in his 2008 book, “Hyping Health Risks”, that the danger of passive smoking (secondhand smoke) is a matter of politics and faith - not scientific evidence. "There are few scientists who believe that passive smoking can cause fatal diseases." Huh?

Kabat, together with James Enstrom, published one of the largest studies to date (British Medical Journal, 2002) on the effects of secondhand smoke exposure, finding no correlation between SHS and lung cancer or heart disease. He and Enstrom were subjected to harsh and malicious personal attacks after publishing their study.

"It is basically consistent with what we already know. But the study is interesting because it measures a variety of risks against each other, " Kabat commented on the Canadian study in an interview with Kjellerup. "It confirms the risk relationship between lung cancer and exposure to a variety of hazardous substances and factors in the work environment - and it confirms that passive smoking plays an insignificant role in lung cancer."

Back in June, Denmark’s Minister for Health, Bertel Haarder, was quick to backtrack on a quote attributed to him by Kjellerup, following a hearing on smoking in Copenhagen. “I do not believe that passive smoking is dangerous. I am a non-believer in that theory.”

Haarder, without denying the statement, explained that the quote was taken out of context: “I didn’t know I was being interviewed. We were just standing and chatting – so I don’t think it’s fair that it is being put forward as a ministerial statement.”

“What I am asking, is that journalists tell me when I am being interviewed so that I can be sure that what I say is reported in the right context . . . I had a chat with some people in which I said that passive smoking cannot be as harmful as active smoking and that you cannot put the two on the same footing.” Uh-huh.

Is the Danish Health Minister afraid that expressing a privately held view , “I do not believe that passive smoking is dangerous,” might lead to political retribution? Did he perhaps fear he might be subjected to the kind of personal attacks directed at Kabat and Enstrom?

In a shocking interview with LeParisiene, Dr. Phillipes Even, the former president of the prestigious Necker Research Institute in France, stated unequivocally, “Clearly, the harm [of secondhand smoke] is either nonexistent, or it is extremely low.”

When asked why he didn't speak up earlier, Professor Even explained that his position as a civil servant, dean of the largest medical faculty in France, included an obligation to remain consistent with official policy. “If I had deviated from official positions, I would have had to pay the consequences. Today, I am a free man.”

That the vast majority of studies find no statistical link between secondhand smoke and chronic diseases such as lung cancer and heart disease, is a fact little known to the majority of the population in the US, Canada and other nations where anti-smoker zealots control the agenda.

And, they're unlikely to learn the facts while the anti-smoker booster club in the main stream media chooses to disseminate anti-smoker rhetoric and propaganda unchallenged. They're unlikely to learn the facts when the media ignores conflicting scientific evidence, in effect, refusing to publish dissenting views.

And, they're unlikely to learn the facts when prominent scientists can be intimidated into silence.

Geoffrey Kabat says: "There are few scientists who believe that passive smoking can cause fatal diseases." The latest study from Canada seems to confirm the view that secondhand smoke does not contribute to lung cancer.

But, the public will never know as long as the main stream media continues to present only one side of the argument.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Obesity as an “infectious” disease . . . serious science?

It appears that obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the US and could infect 42% of the population sometime within the next 40 years. Yes, the key word is infect. "It looks like obesity is becoming more infectious," said Alison Hill, a graduate student at the Harvard-Massachusetts Institute of Technology Division of Health Sciences and Technology, during an interview with Reuters. Uh-huh.

And, of course, they have a “scientific study” to support their prognostications, the findings of which are reported in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Computational Biology.

According to an article in Reuters, “U.S. government researchers in January said 68 percent of U.S. adults are considered overweight, having a body mass index or BMI of 25 or higher, and a third are obese, having a body mass index of 30 or higher.”

The Reuters article, by Julie Steenhuysen, notes that: “Being overweight or obese raises the risk of heart disease, diabetes, some cancers, arthritis and other conditions,” before going on to note that: “Obesity-related diseases account for nearly 10 percent of medical spending in the United States or an estimated $147 billion a year.”

What's that you say? It's nobody's business if some overweight junk food junkie wants to eat themselves into an early grave.

But, that's where you're wrong, friends and neighbours. What about the economic burden placed on the rest of society? That $147 billion will likely triple in size when lost productivity, caused by fatties calling in sick after eating too much the night before, is taken into account. And, weren't you just told that your fat friends could infect you with their, er . . . fat contaigon?

Did you think this was a joke?

Another scientific study, also from Harvard, reported in 2007 that if someone's friend becomes obese, that person's chances of becoming obese increase by more than half. According to Hill, the study is based on the idea that obesity can spread like an infectious disease and people can catch it from their friends. Huh? An infectious disease? Like swine flu or typhoid, maybe? And they have a scientific study to prove it?

Isn't science grand? And, I'll bet you dollars to donuts (preferably from Tim Horton's) that Ms. Hill made the infectious disease claim with a straight face.

But, this must be serious stuff. US First Lady, Michele Obama, noted at the launch of her “Let's Move”, multi-billion dollar anti-obesity campaign, in February, 2010, "The physical and emotional health of an entire generation and the economic health and security of our nation is at stake."

The economic health and security of the nation?

OK. I believe maybe she over-stated the case just a trifle.. But, I think the First lady was recommending school programs to encourage healthy eating and promote physical activity, thereby reducing the number of kids (”nearly one in three children in America”) thought to be overweight or obese.

However, I don't believe she intended to advance the proposition that the kids should drop their plump friends for fear of becoming infected with the “fat virus”. Unfortunately, when the fanatics start churning out their questionable scientific studies, legitimate public health concerns often take a back seat to gross exaggeration, sickening silliness and outright bullshit.

The lunatic fringe is always ready to climb aboard the bandwagon promoting the latest public health scare. They just love to tell other people how to live their lives. For their own good, of course.

Recently, San Francisco became the first major U.S. city to pass a law that prohibits giving away free toys with unhealthy meals for children. The idea is to “promote healthy eating habits while combating childhood obesity”. No more Happy Meals, lest the kids start putting on the pounds and infecting their friends and classmates.

Earlier this summer, the Center for Science in the Public Interest threatened to sue McDonald's if it didn't stop using Happy Meal toys to “lure” children into its restaurants.

A couple of weeks back, Ontario's Minister of Health Propaganda, Margaret Best, threatened to have KFC's new sandwich, the “Double Down” prohibited in Ontario because of it's high fat, high sodium content.

The Robert Wood Johnston Foundation is reducing the amount they spend on denigrating and demeaning smokers. Instead, they've committed $500 million to combatting obesity. And, they probably won't stop until the kids are hunkered down behind a dumpster, surreptitiously gorging themselves on black market Twinkies and washing them down with contraband Coca-Cola.

The pharmaceutical industry will be laughing all the way to the bank as demand grows for appetite suppressants and anti-fat vaccines in the wake of the new war on obesity.

But, if the science proves that obesity is a communicable disease . . .

Obesity may well be a legitimate public health concern. But suing fast food joints and banning happy meals is not going to resolve the problem. Neither is junk science.

Enough of the bullshit and bafflegab; time to add “scientific credibility” to the long list of oxymorons.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mike & Molly – Overweight couples on TV

“So anyway, yes, I think I'd be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other . . . because I'd be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room - just like I'd find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroin addict slumping in a chair.”

The above comments, penned by a writer called Maura Kelly, came from the on-line version of Marie Claire, a women's magazine. Kelly was commenting on the CBS sitcom "Mike & Molly," about a couple who meet at an Overeaters Anonymous group and begin a relatioship. Huh? They've got a 12 step program for the overweight?

The show, which has apparently done well in the ratings, has also drawn complaints for its abundance of fat jokes.

I must admit, I've never seen or even heard of the show or it's stars, Melissa McCarthy and Billy Gardell. I don't watch all that much TV, and when I do, I'm most likely watching the History channel, one of the news channels or one dedicated to old movies. I do make an exception for the many incarnations of “Dr. Who”, but that's neither here nor there.

Mike and Molly has also drawn criticism from some viewers who are not comfortable watching intimacy between two plus-sized actors. Hence the article by Ms. Kelly in Marie Claire, where she notes: ”And while I think our country's obsession with physical perfection is unhealthy, I also think it's at least equally crazy, albeit in the other direction, to be implicitly promoting obesity!”

Wow. And I thought sitcoms were about entertainment. Forgive my naivety.

After offering that “I'm happy to give you some nutrition and fitness suggestions if you need them”, Kelly closed her article with the line: “What do you guys think? Fat people making out on TV - are you cool with it? Do you think I'm being an insensitive jerk?”

Her readers apparently responded in the affirmative.

In an update to her blog post on Marie Claire, Ms. Kelly offered an apology of sorts: “I would really like to apologize for the insensitive things I've said in this post. Believe it or not, I never wanted anyone to feel bullied or ashamed after reading this, and I sorely regret that it upset people so much.”

Unfortunately she goes on to clarify what she meant in her original blog entry.

“I would like to reiterate that I think it's great to have people of all shapes and healthy sizes represented in magazines (as, it bears mentioning here, they are in Marie Claire) and on TV shows - and that in my post, I was talking about a TV show that features people who are not simply a little overweight, but appear to be morbidly obese”. Uh-huh.

The woman apparently suffers from “foot-in-mouth” disease.

Another blogger, Rosie Schwatz, at Enlightened Eater, chastised Ms. Kelly for her article, noting however that the article may have had some positive benefits: “The good news is that it ignited a firestorm of controversy. Judging people by how they look and how much they weigh may finally be recognized as unacceptable.”

I think Ms. Schwartz may be a little premature in her conclusion.

Is she perhaps unaware of the anti-obesity campaign initiated by Michelle Obama? Does she know that the Robert Wood Johnson foundation recently committed $500 million to fight the “epidemic” of obesity? Is she familiar with the intentions of some public health zealots to model their anti-obesity efforts on the “successful” tactics employed in anti-smoker campaigns?

Ms. Schwartz believes “It's time to drop the fat bashing.” I agree. But . . .

I've seen what's happens when public health officials declare an epidemic and decide to help people for their own good. Hell, I'm a smoker.

And, the anti-fat fanatics are already crawling out from under their rocks; lawsuits against fast food joints for “causing” obesity, calorie counts on restaurant menus to remind the overweight of the harm they may be doing to themselves, taxes on sugary soft drinks to combat the epidemic and, eventually, the denormalization of the obese, those poor helpless junk food addicts so desperately in need of society's help to become normal, healthy human beings.

If the treatment afforded smokers is any indication, then the overweight and obese may be in for a rough ride. They don't deserve it, but then neither do smokers.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Smoking, greedy governments and hypocritical lawsuits

Alberta's Justice Minister, Alison Redford, recently announced that the provincial government would be filing a lawsuit against the tobacco industry.

Similar lawsuits have been filed in three other provinces; British Columbia, Ontario and New Brunswick. The statements of claim seek to have the tobacco industry compensate the governments of those provinces for the alleged health care costs incurred for treatment of smoking related illness.

Les Hagen, executive director of Alberta's incarnation of Action on Smoking and Health, believes that's a fantastic idea. "This industry has really been getting away with murder for decades and it's time for them to be held accountable for an enormous impact on our quality of life."

The governments involved and anti-smoker zealots like Mr. Hagen, are obviously looking for a settlement similar to the US Master Settlement Agreement (MSA). In that case, state governments in the US agreed to a $245 billion settlement with the tobacco companies, to be paid over 25 years.

The gimmick was that the settlement cost the tobacco companies nothing. It allowed the tobacco companies to pass the costs on to consumers, in fact creating a hidden tax on tobacco which was collected by the companies and then passed on to state governments.

In simpler terms, it was a con job. The government could pass off the settlement as a major rebuke of the tobacco industry and make it look like they were really taking care of the tobacco “epidemic,” but . . .

The tobacco companies continued selling their product and raking in their profits, state and federal governments continued to collect their punitive tobacco taxes, the anti-smoker zealots got their cut of the action and the only ones to take a real hit were tobacco consumers.

It's expected that all ten Canadian provinces will eventually join those which have already filed lawsuits. The costs to the tobacco companies, if any of these lawsuits are successful, could be well in excess of a hundred billion dollars; more than enough to bankrupt all three of Canada's major tobacco companies.

To put those numbers in perspective, Canada's three major tobacco companies earn an estimated one billion dollars a year in profits. That means, over the past ten years, they've made roughly ten billion dollars in profits. There's simply no way that the tobacco companies could afford to stay in business and pay the enormous amounts being demanded by the provinces.

And, according to Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, provincial and federal tax revenues over the past ten years were approximately $ 61.8 billion, roughly 6 times the profits made by the tobacco companies. It's highly questionable whether the provinces and the feds are prepared to give up that kind of steady income by sending the tobacco companies into receivership.

So, unless the provinces are intentionally setting out to bankrupt the industry, the only plausible objective of these lawsuits is to emulate the smoke and mirrors con game perpetrated by state governments in the US with the Master Settlement Agreement.

Les Hagen intimates at such a scenario when he notes: "At some point when this hits a critical mass or tipping point, the industry will probably come forward with some proposals which may or may not be acceptable to provinces." Uh-huh.

And, here's a little more food for thought; something that's seldom, if ever, noted in the mainstream media.

If the tobacco companies were earning a profit of one billion dollars a year, they would have earned a maximum of $60 billion since 1950. But, there's no evidence the industry was making that much money until recently, even during the 50's, 60's and 70's when smoking prevalence was at its highest.

Which means government has likely generated more tax revenue ($61.8 billion) from the sale of tobacco products in the last 10 years than the tobacco companies have earned in profit in the past 60.

According to Health Canada, smoking “kills” 37,000 Canadians a year. The government's response to this alleged slaughter? The stigmatization of smokers through smoking bans in bars, restaurants and other “public” places, hiding tobacco displays from public view and the implementation of punitive, ever increasing tobacco taxes.

Combined federal and provincial tax revenue for the 2007/2008 fiscal year were just under $7 billion dollars (excluding sales taxes). That means the government extorted roughly $190,000 from smokers for every Canadian who was allegedly “killed” by smoking. And, now they're demanding that the tobacco companies cough up even more money.

Can you spell h-y-p-o-c-r-i-t-e-s?

Update – Previous Post:
Philipina Schergevitch, the octogenarian who was turfed from her Calgary home when the seniors complex she was living in went “smoke free”, has found other accommodation. Her family apparently found suitable housing elsewhere for the 88 year old smoker.

The Bishop O'Byrne Housing for Seniors Association deserves a kick in the ass for their despicable treatment of this elderly woman. And hardly a peep in protest from the main stream media. Disgusting.