Thursday, September 13, 2007

Heros - Give Something Back

One of the most important and significant organizations I've ever known is the Non-Smokers' Rights Association/Smoking and Health Action Foundation. The first is their advocacy part of the organization and the latter is their tax deductible charitable part. I came across a request for a donation that I had put aside and it prompted me to do something about it today.

I did anti-tobacco work for years and I believe I very much followed the type of model the leader of NSRA, Gar Mahood, follows. The tobacco epidemic is unlike a health epidemic caused by pestilence, the tobacco epidemic is caused by corporations that have no consideration or conscious as to the degree of violence they inflict on smokers dying from cancer that rages through their body, and the implications to those who lose their loved ones this way. Truly when I look at what cancer is, I can't think of a more violent way to die than the slow torture of your body slowly being eaten up. The tobacco industry wipes out on average 17 years of life from each smoker, with 1 in 4 dying 25 or more years prematurely. And non-smokers get killed from it too.

When you apply a disease model of epidemiology to tobacco it becomes clear that the infectious agent is the tobacco industry. Cancer treatment programs and smoking cessation programs are methods of treating the disease, but they do not prevent the spread of the disease in the first place. Attacking the business model of the tobacco industry is the most effect use of cancer prevention dollars.

It is very much like how when cholera is in drinking water turning off the water source prevents further spread of the disease, but you still need to treat those who are sick, the cessation and cancer treatment programs. If you don't turn off the water, you don't stop the spread of the disease. Actually smoking causes more heart disease than cancer.

So, tobacco is a business and restricting where tobacco can be sold, whom it can be sold to, where it can be consumed, price, advertising, corporate accountability and justice for the carnage and victim, etc. cuts off the supply of new smokers. Unfortunately, this disease has gotten into a lot of pipes and it just takes longer to flush them and some fools keep turning the taps back on.

If you come visit where I live, here in British Columbia, we have the strongest work place legislation in the world, controlled by our Workers' Compensation Board, which has strong ability to enforce compared to by-laws. So, you can go any where and there is no smoking in any indoor public place, even bars. We have a high price and a legal age of 19. We used to have the strongest advertising restrictions, but there was some fool that was supposed to be on the health side that opened that tap despite numerous warnings that it was a very bad idea.

I did this work locally, Garfield Mahood does this work globally and endlessly. His research foundation was so important to give out the latest information on how the disease was spreading (what the tobacco industry was up to) and showing the model that works, well, here's a quote:

"You are, almost single-handedly, responsible for saving more lives from the chains of lethal addiction (and so death itself) than most physicians could even aspire to.

Dr. Ron Stewart, professor of medicine and former Nova Scotia health minister

This was in response to Gar being awarded Canada's highest honor by investing as him an Officer of the Order of Canada. Belated congratulations Gar, I can't think of anyone more deserving.

My latest mail from NSRA has a book, "What Do The Smoke Folk Have In Common With Organized Crime?" The book is designed for senior high school and university students who want to be informed about how the tobacco industry works to they can make a difference in their community and it is impressive. The dedication reads:

This report is dedicated to the more than one million Canadian mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters whose premature deaths were contributed to or caused by tobacco industry deception and to the activist young people who are committed to holding the tobacco industry to account for these deaths.

We applaud this special group of young Canadians who are determined to change the industry's behaviour and who are prepared to dive into and absorb this lengthy report because they want to understand Big Tobacco's predatory marketing and shut off the industry's supply of new recruits."

Seriously, this is the type of resource that you want to see a few copies in your local high schools and even libraries.

By donating to the NSRA not only do you help to prevent kids from starting, but each child that doesn't start will over their lifetime have an extra $100,000 to spend on other things that smokers end up spending on cigarettes. That's a lot of money freed up for other businesses. There is no free market competition with smoking, if they smoke they will buy cigarette over food even if they are starving, or their children are starving.

The other thing is that tobacco control always needs strong advocates fighting to ensure tobacco control programs are funded. What I read in my mail is that tobacco control funding has been cut in half, from about $3 per person to about $1.50 per person. Seriously, $3/person is already a serious pittance and to cut that in half is outrageous, and it looks like it is being cut even further.

So, I've sent a $500 cheque and I dedicate it to my mom who died at 32, my dad who died at 63, my uncle Danny who died at 48, my cousin Joseph who died in a house fire at age 10, my dear friend Fred who died of a blood cancer (the most common cancer from second-hand smoke), my grandpa who died at 62. The research on every single type of death they collectively died from says they are smoking related. Happy belated birthday mom who would have been 64 yesterday and to Fred, I came across your picture today and I miss you so bad, so much like a father to me.

You to can send a donation to this worthy organization at the Non-Smokers Rights Association, 720 Spadina Avenue, #221, Toronto, Ontario, M5S 2T9,

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