New Zealand Associate Health Minister Ayesa VerrallOne year ago New Zealand introduced a plan called the “smoke-free generation” whereby starting in 2027 the legal age for the purchase of cigarettes will increase by a year annually in that country, so that anyone born after Jan. 1, 2009 will never be able to legally purchase them, amounting to a lifetime ban.

Last month they made it law. Malaysia announced similar plans last year, and many other countries are considering it. Over time such policies will morph into a complete ban on the sales of cigarettes, eliminating tobacco smoking entirely.

The big question, of course, remains: will it work? We all know the fate of alcohol prohibition in the United States a century ago — why should we believe tobacco prohibition would be any more successful? Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, on calling for a tobacco manufacture/sales ban in 2007, instructed “the real reason Prohibition failed is because the American public did not support it, believing correctly that most people could handle liquor without becoming alcoholics.”

As of November 1st the minimum legal age for purchasing cigarettes in the state of New Jersey has been raised to 21. Hawaii and California already have "Tobacco 21" laws in effect, while Oregon and Maine have recently passed laws that will come in to force next year. The Tobacco 21 movement has been sweeping across the USA (see several other states have proposals under way in their legislatures, while many progressive cities including New York, Boston, Chicago and (until it became state-wide) San Francisco have passed it municipally. While mostly Democratic- led, Republicans are beginning to also see it as wise public policy, with even Governor Chris Christie, after vetoing it twice, recently changing his mind stating he was swayed by studies that showed people won’t develop a smoking addiction if they don’t use it in their teens or early 20s.

Very nice- but will it work? Yes, this has been proven in a controlled study of municipalities in Massachusetts, and the strategy has been called "An idea whose time has come" by the New England Journal of Medicine. Paradoxically maybe the most trustworthy piece of evidence comes from an internal Philip Morris report warning "raising the legal minimum age for cigarette purchase to 21 could gut our key young adult market". The USA's Institute of Medicine produced a major scientific report backing a nation-wide Tobacco 21 law, which it calculated would reduce smoking initiation by 25%, reduce overall tobacco consumption by 12%, and save 4.2 million years of life in kids alive today. 

Smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death in Canada and worldwide, killing 1 in 2 smokers, and more than alcohol, drugs, car accidents, murder, suicide, and AIDS combined. The tobacco industry has repeatedly lied about what they knew and when, intentionally manufactured controversy, enhanced cigarette addictiveness, and targeted women, children and minorities.

The tobacco industry must continue to find ways to market to children if they hope to survive, as ~ 90% of smokers start by age 18. Movies are one of the main legal avenues remaining for such. A review  suggested that 37% of youth smoking initiation is due to smoking in movies.  The Surgeon General has concluded that ratings changes could reduce teen smokers by 18%, preventing 1 million deaths among US children.

Carrie Fisher was a lifelong smoker who died at 60 from a sudden heart attack. Tragic, but unfortunately common. She had also fought mental health and addiction battles. The prevalence of smoking is disproportionately elevated in both of these groups, and despite being traditionally viewed as their “lesser problem” during life, it most often ends up being the cause of their deaths.

 Carrie Fisher’s death, while very sad, can be turned into meaningful action. Restrict smoking in movies, set age limit for purchase at 21, increase cigarette taxes, institute plain packaging, divest governmental pension fund tobacco holdings, ban smoking in multi-unit dwellings and outdoor gathering areas, and dramatically increase anti-tobacco governmental expenditures. Most importantly take control of smoking’s image- not cool, but instead a never-ending beauty- and health-destroying, and poverty-inducing battle against nicotine withdrawal. Maybe Princess Leia can help us defeat true organized evil after all.

Stuart H. Kreisman, MD

World No Tobacco Day 2015Airspace used the occasion of World No Tobacco Day, May 31, to push back against the "Tobacco Six": the British Columbia grocery and drug store chains that oppose the end of tobacco sales in pharmacies. British Columbia is the only Canadian province that still permits pharmacies to sell cigarettes and other tobacco products.

The plan was to spend about 45 minutes picketing each of the three grocery stores that represent half of the TOBACCO SIX:  Thrifty Foods, Save-On-Foods (part of Darrell Jones' Overwaitea Food Group) and Safeway.  There aren't a lot of Thrifty options, but we chose the one in South Surrey, in a mall called Morgan Crossing.  While I carried a large placard that said "TOBACCO IN PHARMACIES!  WTF???" on one side...and "JIM DORES, GENERAL MANAGER, THRIFTY FOODS IS A BULLY!" on the other, Marc and Dave handed out leaflets that explain exactly why we were picketing these stores (check out several stories about the issue of tobacco in pharmacies, including a Global TV BC report on this site.  While we always encounter a few ignorant people (who refuse to take our literature and learn about the issue... and say things like, "Get a job!", "Get a life!", etc.), the vast majority -- yes, even including several smokers -- were very receptive... and happy to chat with us, tell us their personal experiences with tobacco, thank us for what we're doing, wish us luck, etc.
That said, the reactions of employees/managers/security of our target stores are always so funny!  Obviously, no business wants to have protesters in front of it.  But some of the things they say to us... and some of the lame arguments they put up are absolutely hilarious.

Here is an English translation of an article by Guillaume Bourgault-Côté that appeared in Le Devoir, Montréal's major French-language newspaper:

Protest at Imperial Tobacco officeThe 100th anniversary festivities for Imperial Tobacco turned sour yesterday. The company cancelled its public event, the government disassociated itself from the event, and it was ultimately a demonstration by anti-tobacco groups that marked the centenary.

On Thursday, the St. Henri-based enterprise announced in a press release that Marguerite Blais, Minister for Seniors and Member of the National Assembly for Saint-Henri-Sainte-Anne would attend the next day to take part in the unveiling of an ice sculpture to mark the 100 years of the company. None of that took place.

First, Mme. Blais cancelled her participation, then the weather conditions forced cancellation of the unveiling of the sculpture. (It was 2 degrees Celsius and raining yesterday afternoon in Montreal.)

According to Imperial Tobacco, a scheduling conflict forced Mme. Blais to cancel. However, at the minister's office, Le Devoir was told it was a question of principle and good judgment that dictated the decision.

Even if she could have attended, Mme. Blais would not have taken part in the ceremony, her press attaché, Christiane Chaillé, explained. "Mme. Blais supports all the government's positions with respect to tobacco control," said Mme. Chaillé.

It appears it was the riding office of Mme. Blais that accepted the invitation without informing the cabinet office. The latter gave assurances that it would never have agreed to having the Minister for Seniors take part in a celebration organized by a leading tobacco products company.

The Quebec Coalition for Tobacco Control (CQCT) figures that the minister would have been playing with fire in showing up for the event. "It would have been a completely contradictory message," argued Louis Gauvin, spokesman for the group.

The coalition organized a demonstration yesterday in front of the head office of Imperial Tobacco, accompanied by Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada. "We find it revolting that a tobacco company celebrates its anniversary with balloons and cheers," said M. Gauvin.

The Grim Reaper at the Imperial Tobacco office"For us, the only real contribution by Imperial Tobacco is the hundreds of thousands of deaths in Canada in the last 100 years, the illness, the suffering, the deceit, the hiding of information. They've done everything in their power to maintain the privilege of marketing an essentially deadly product. There's nothing to celebrate here."

Imperial Tobacco has been located in the South-West of Montreal since its beginnings. The headquarters have been located next to the factory site for the past five years. In a press release sent out yesterday, the company justified its decision to celebrate its centenary in public due its respect for "the most rigorous norms of social responsibility" and the role it has played over the years in "the evolution of the artistic, cultural and sporting heritage, fashion and community services."

Since 2000, the company has belonged to British American Tobacco (BAT).

Original article en francais: Enterrement de premiére classe pour le 100e anniversaire d'Imperial Tobacco

This time, it's from George Jonas instead of Terence Corcoran. Here's a response:

Editor, National Post;

With the publication of If you won't shoot, don't Taser by George Jonas (Nov. 24), the public discussion of the relationship of tobacco with death and disease has gone full circle.

People in Denial about this relationship have put considerable energy in identifying alternative causes for the many illnesses caused by tobacco; chlorine in swimming pools, x-rays, increased radiation in the environment, even n "bad karma'. To relate just one of many cases I am familiar with, Californian Mary Herrin chose to identify her doctor as the cause of her two heart attacks, instead of her cigarette habit; Ms. Herrin died at the age of 58.

What Mr. Jonas has now given us, based on what he calls his own "mini-inquiry", is that the death of Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver airport was caused by Dziekanski's cigarette habit, not by over-eager use of tasers by the police. Jonas, however, was not willing to blame Dziekanski for his own addiction to cigarettes. Nor was he willing to blame the manufacturers of the cigarettes Dziekanski consumed, even though those manufacturers lied to the public for many years about the adverse effects of their products, including the addictive nature of them.

Instead, Jonas chose to blame "Big Nanny".

This is silly nonsense. No 'nanny", big or small, deprived Dziekanski of the ability to communicate in either of Canada's official languages. No nanny separated him from the relatives he was supposed to meet at the airport. No nanny caused him to "create a disturbance", attracting the attention of the police. No nanny caused the police to over-react.

George Jonas may well be looking for a big nanny to change his diapers for him. Good luck with finding a volunteer.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced on Nov. 1 that former RCMP Commissioner Norman Inkster has been appointed Chair of the Advisory Council on National Security. Inkster has been a member of this Council since it was established in 2005.

The remaining tobacco industry executives living in Canada will probably be sleeping better at night knowing that Inkster is looking out for them. The same is true for the members of the tobacco-industry-funded Canadian Convenience Stores Association. After all, how would Canadian convenience stores survive if they didn't have cigarettes to sell?

Those of us who are not tobacco industry executives or convenience store owners should start figuring out how to bring our own bomb-sniffing dogs to the airport with us. Inkster has a history of providing cover for the People in Charge that goes back to the Mulroney government, when he decided not to execute search warrants against Tory backbench MP Richard Grise during the 1988 election campaign.

You're a cop in Southern California right now, at the height of "Firestorm 2007." Half a million people have been evacuated and hundreds of homes have been destroyed -- and many more are threatened -- by the still-mostly-out-of-control wildfires, fanned by winds up to 100 kph. One dead, many injured so far.

You're about 30 km from the nearest fire, just patrolling on the outskirts of your quiet and relatively small town (which is not in any immediate danger from the fires), trying to live life and do your job as normally as possible when, all of a sudden, you notice the driver of the car in front of you toss a still-smoldering cigarette butt out of his car window.

After somehow ensuring that the hazard has been eliminated (tinder-dry bushes and trees line both sides of the street...and there are high winds), what do you do? After all, you've heard that cigarettes are the suspected/known cause of some of the fires but...

Do you ignore it (wouldn't want to be accused of over-reacting, making a mountain out of a mole hill, etc.)... pretend you didn't see it and just carry on, like nothing happened? Who would ever know?

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