Friday, January 19, 2007

Hancock is Staying the Course on Smoking Issues

Interesting news release from AADAC on the focus of National Non-Smoking Week.

The Stelmach government is much more open than the previous regime. Some challenges to be sure but so long as Ministers stick to commenting on their departmental areas, offering personal opinions and spending some "political capital" is a good thing to my mind.

We don't have to agree with the positions they take but it good to see what Cabinet Ministers are thinking on important policy issues and where they want to go with them before it all goes behind the closed Cabinet doors. If they get shot down in Cabinet so be it.

This is the more open political aproach and how I would like to see it operate. Not knowing what is going into a policy discussion/decision, what is going on about it and wondering if anything will ever come out of it does not help to inform the citizenry and give them confidence.

Hancock is being taken on by Ty Lund and Lloyd Snelgrove on the smoking ban idea for "talking out of turn.?" They may disagree with the position he takes but surely he ought to be able to say something about his personal positions on heath and wellness issues as the Minister responsible. A Minister would be out of line commenting publically on policy issue outside their portfolio area but that is not what is happening here.

Hancock says a smoking ban in public places will help prevent death and disease and reduce the costly demands on the health care system over time. Prevention and wellness have to be more than words if we are serious about health care reform.

Here is an excerpt from the Edmonton Journal story today on this:

Hancock said Thursday he offered his personal opinion on the issue when questioned this week by reporters, and he has no plans to keep quiet on important public policy issues. He also hopes to forbid tobacco sales in pharmacies and outlaw large smoking displays in stores.

"I'm not driving a personal agenda. I'm driving a government agenda," Hancock said. "You can't avoid talking about public issues in public, nor should you."

Works for me!

Graham Thomson has perspective on all of this in his column today.

I see the Canadian Cancer Society is lining up behind Hancock on a smoking ban in public places too. See exceprts from their new release below:

Media Release
January 19, 2007
For immediate release
Canadian Cancer Society applauds Health Minister’s stance on smoking

Calgary… Premier Ed Stelmach’s change of heart on a provincial smoking ban came on the heels this week of Health Minister Dave Hancock’s pledge to make Alberta smoke-free. This could not have come at a better time -- January 21-27, 2007 is National Non-Smoking Week.

“Health Minister Hancock’s recent comments on pursuing strong provincial smoke-free legislation are welcome news to the Canadian Cancer Society,” says Dan Holinda, President/CEO of the Alberta/NWT Division of the Society. “We applaud the Stelmach government’s fresh approach to this issue and are behind them 110%. The new Tory leadership is taking the health of all Albertans seriously.”

Today, 10 Albertans will die as a result of tobacco, and this will happen every day this year. Tobacco use is the leading avoidable cause of disease, disability and premature death in Alberta, resulting in one in every five deaths. Second-hand smoke is responsible for 1,000 tobacco-related deaths annually across Canada.

One hundred percent smoke-free legislation will follow in the footsteps of the Premier’s pledge to improve the health of all Albertans and his welcoming of legislation on this issue reflects his desire for open and transparent government – a pillar he lead with during the race for Premier. If Albertans are interested in seeing the province become a smoke-free province, the Canadian Cancer Society urges them to write the Premier and show their support for a provincial smoking ban.

“Smoke-free legislation across Alberta will help protect all Albertans - not just minors and not just those lucky enough to live in cities whose council voted in favour of the health of their constituents,” says Holinda. “Banning powerwalls, or displays of tobacco products in such places as convenience stores and pharmacies, will help prevent youth from starting to smoke, and will also help prevent impulse-buying by smokers who are trying to quit.”

Evidence shows us that smoke-free legislation, restrictions on advertising and marketing of tobacco industry products, denormalizing the tobacco industry, higher tobacco taxes, and bans on where tobacco products can be sold are all a part of an approach that must be taken to reduce the burden tobacco places on the health of our communities and the healthcare system as a whole.

The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is to eradicate cancer and to enhance the quality of life of people living with cancer. When you want to know more about cancer, visit our website or call our toll-free, bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333.

For more information, please contact:
Lorie Boychuk – 403-541-5375
Canadian Cancer Society, AB/NWT Division office


  1. According to the Canadian Medical Association, 24,000 Canadians die every year from "preventable medical errors" - but our Minister of Health sees second-hand smoke (with 1100 alleged and zero proven deaths per year) as his top priority? This is not bold, innovative tackling of the systemic problems in our health care - this is scapegoating the poor and the elderly.

    In my opinion.

    BTW, the CMA also says that adverse drug reactions kill over 10,000 Canadians per year. Combined with the preventable medical errors, that's 34 times as many deaths per year as SHS is alleged to cause.

  2. Anonymous11:30 am

    Terrible spin Ken. It is basic common sense that a caucus member consult with his colleges before going on a personal crusade. Granted, I happen to agree with this policy initiative, but he went about it in a surprisingly amateur manner.

  3. ken chapman1:57 pm

    Son of Gaia - thx for the stats but so what! Just because Doctors make preventable mistakes and adverse drug reaction kill people we should ignore the dire consequences of nicotine addiction? Does that absolve society from dealing with it as well as the adverse affects tobacco smoke has on the health of others?

    Do those stats justify that we should not take measures to prevent the proven adverse consequences of smoking on citizens?

    Anonymous - what spin? I inserted Hancock's comments as quoted in MSM. Is that spin? How does a politician get an issue on the political agenda - the same way everyone else does...they get it to be part of the public conversation and into the political process.

    Politicians can control the public agenda and much of the public discourse and the ultimate decisions because we elected them to do that. They ought not be afraid of doing most of that (with minor exceptions) in public.

    What is wrong with politicians expresing personal opinions and Ministers commenting on portfolio policy idea? That is part adn parcel the political process in free society with an open and mature democracy.

    Read the column by Graham Thomson in the Edmonton Journal today. He has this all in perspective.

  4. Ken - when a Minister of Health places a greater priority on 1100 lives than on 34,000 lives, that suggests he A)has a poor sense of priorities or B)has an agenda other than improving the health system for the benefit of the most people or C)is pandering to special interests.

    I'm about to post a response to Graham Thomson's article, wherein I will expose once again that the Edmonton Journal's coverage of smoking-related issues is literally owned by the advertising revenue of the Health Promotion industry.

  5. Son of gaia - Why do you assume the various concerns are in some priority ranking?

    Even if they were, right now no one is dealing effectively with nicotine addiction.

    But even so, other concerns are not to be ignored. The world is not all a zero-sum game.

    Your assumptions all seem to be for convenience and are not very convincing.

  6. Anonymous11:27 pm

    This was all to start a media campaign because no one else would start it. Wonder how much money, or promises, is involved with this one.

    Great going ASH make an mountain out of a molehill, just for national no smoking week. You have a great lacky. You first must create a problem in the pepers, before people think there's a problem.

  7. Son of gaia,

    What's your problem? If you are suggesting that second hand smoke is not a serious health problem then you are sticking your head in the sand and ignoring all the independent scientific evidence and common sense. Can any particular death be linked to smoking? Probably not. Is there evidence that people who smoke or are constantly exposed to second hand smoke have a whole variety of health problems? Absolutely yes.
    Having read a few of your posts I've got to wonder. Are you (a) an employee of a tobacco company or (b) just simply opposed to science and basing public policy on what we can learn through science?

  8. Ap - no, I've never been paid a cent by the tobacco companies or anyone else for any of my activism. It's not for sale, at any price.

    Dr Michael Siegel, a 20-year veteran of Tobacco Control, revealed on his blogsite that all Tobacco Control cabal members are taught to use accusing their opponents of being in the pay of Big Tobacco to avoid debating the facts:
    "In the 20 years that I was a member of the tobacco control movement, I was led to believe that there were only two sides to any anti-smoking issue: our side and the tobacco industry side. Therefore, anyone who disagreed with our position had to be, in some way, affiliated with the tobacco industry. I was also taught to respond to their arguments not on any scientific grounds or on the merit of their arguments, but by simply discrediting the person by attacking their affiliation with the tobacco companies"