Reboot Alberta

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Business, Labour and Health Professionals all Support Hancock's Smoking Ban

The world of public policy can create some strange bedfellows. The support for Alberta Minister of Health and Wellness, Dave Hancock’s initiative to ban smoking in public and work places is a prefect example of this strange world. It is a perfect example of how people with significant differences can get together on issues and work them out.

Gil McGowan, the President of the Alberta Federation of Labour and Ken Kobly, the CEO of the Alberta Chambers of Commerce are both on side with the smoking ban. Their organizations are on record in support as well. The health and safety issues and even productivity issues are in the front of minds and are what drives such groups and individuals to get involved.

Go to Policy Channel ( and watch the various video conversations with each of them and see how they articulate the importance of this public health

The coalition of some 15 different professional, health and advocacy groups are getting going on letting their spheres of influence know this new Minister is pursuing the smoking ban. The Pharmacists and the Doctors are actively reaching out and engaging their members and encouraging them to contact local MLAs to get more political support for the smoking ban. The Dental Hygienists and the Nurses are also significantly into the public policy and lobbying effort. Then we have the heath promotion groups like Cancer, Lung, Heart and Stroke all want to do their part to make this smoking ban a reality in Alberta.

Bottom line is also the bottom line. The health budget in Alberta is up over 10% this year again and now some 40% of the Alberta government’s total annual expenditure. That can’t continue and the politicians know it. The other big selling feature for them then is the smoking ban will result in few cases of smoking related disease. That will help reduce that portion of the tobacco related demands on the health care system…saving money too.

It is a win-win-win and an issue that brings so many different kinds of people together to help. They all want to ensure that Alberta gets into the health prevention and wellness agenda as well as the best acute care and other health services. It is an idea whose time has come.


  1. Anonymous7:19 pm

    Ken, given the fact that you criticized the CPC over the handling of detainees, I think a fair and balanced view would consider certain facts that have just come to light. The LPC knew that torture was occuring while in government:

    Here are some of the briefings that the Liberals received. It is sickening that they did nothing:

    “The reports/ratios of monitoring of the Commission independent of the rights of the person of Afghanistan indicate that torture remains a current practice of the police officers, in particular at the stage of the investigation. This measurement is used to obtain confessions of the prisoners”, can one read in the annual report of 2004.

    “Although the State of Afghanistan does not encourage physical violence, the military forces, the police officers and the services of information were implied in arbitrary arrests, kidnappings, cases of extortion, cases of torture and murders of individuals suspected of having made crimes. The commanders of the police force and their troops were implied in many cases of rape of women, girls and boys”, write the Canadian diplomats in their annual report of 2005.

  2. Anonymous10:15 pm

    Eric - this comment seems misplaced as to this post.

    My guess is you really meant to put this comment in the post entitled "Harper the Deceiver."

    There is an interesting comment exchange bout that post in the Blogs Canada e-group site. The link is on this Blog but here it is for easy reference:

  3. Yes, it's an easy "kissing babies" photo-op. Might as well climb on the bandwagon and be part of the feelgood group-hug. Aren't we all so wonderful?

    Too bad it's all built on lies - but then, this isn't about facts or reason in any case. It's about cardboard rationalizations and justifications for acting out vengeance against and scapegoating a powerless minority.

    So, don't let me interrupt your victory celebrations - but for the sake of posterity here are the facts.

    Claiming that a proposed piece of legislation will save lives, falsely associates the legislation and those who champion it with the genuine heroics of those who really do save people’s lives – such as lifeguards and firemen. It suggests that the frequently quite mundane and ordinary people championing the legislation should be accorded the glory that rightfully belongs to heart surgeons and paramedics, and it further suggests that they should be accorded the deference, that is rightly paid to law enforcement or firefighters during an emergency. You wouldn’t question what emergency personnel direct you to do in an emergency, and you shouldn’t question what these health promoters are telling you to do – because they are “life-saving heroes”. That idea is quite false, or course. Health promoters are not life-saving heroes and are not deserving of either the glory or the deference that rightly belongs to those who really do save lives.

    Claiming that laws or regulations will save lives or prevent deaths also creates a false inference that a specified number of persons, who were predicted to die if the law or regulation or health practice was not instituted, will live forever instead. Contemplate this example: “Cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 430,000 deaths each year worldwide. Eliminating smoking would therefore save 430,000 lives (or, prevent 430,000 deaths) “
    Believe it or not, many people hearing/reading such a statement will make the semantically induced, delusional assumption that - if smoking was eliminated today - 430,000 fewer people will die every year unto eternity. In other words, the delusional inference is that people who don’t die of smoking-related causes don’t die at all, ever.

    The reality is - health promotion laws, regulations and other measures do not stop people from dying. At best, they may alter the probability that persons at risk to die from a specific cause will die from that cause. Eliminating all smoking might lower the probability of an average person contracting and dying of lung cancer. It would simultaneously, however, increase the probability of an average person dying from all other possible causes. Even wildly successful health promotion measures cannot eliminate death, they can only substitute one cause of death for some other cause.

    "More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease, a 10 percent increase since the last Alzheimer's Association estimate five years ago -- and a count that supports the long-forecast dementia epidemic as the population grays.
    Age is the biggest risk factor, and the report to be released Tuesday shows the nation is on track for skyrocketing Alzheimer's once the baby boomers start turning 65 in 2011. Already, one in eight people 65 and older have the mind-destroying illness, and nearly one in two people over 85.
    Unless scientists discover a way to delay Alzheimer's brain attack, some 7.7 million people are expected to have the disease by 2030, the report says. By 2050, that toll could reach 16 million.
    Why? Ironically, in fighting heart disease, cancer and other diseases, "we're keeping people alive so they can live long enough to get Alzheimer's disease," explains association vice president Steve McConnell."

    According to an analysis reported by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, WA, the lifetime treatment cost for a lung cancer patient was $12,510 (US, 1984 dollars - or $24,413 in 2006 dollars). ["Lifetime treatment cost" describes the total cost for direct treatment of the illness, from the initial diagnosis until the successful resolution of the illness or the death of the patient.]

    In comparison, according to the american Alzheimer's Association, the average lifetime cost of care for an individual with Alzheimer’s is $174,000 !

    "National direct and indirect annual costs of caring for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease are at least $100 billion, according to estimates used by the Alzheimer’s Association and the National Institute on Aging".
    "Medicare costs for beneficiaries with Alzheimer’s are expected to increase 75 percent, from $91 billion in 2005 to $160 billion in 2010; Medicaid expenditures on residential dementia care will increase 14 percent, from $21 billion in 2005 to $24 billion in 2010, according to a report commissioned by the Alzheimer’s Association"

    The road to WHERE is paved in WHAT?

  4. Anonymous11:30 pm

    Is Alzheimer's preventable with a behaviour change? Smoking is!

  5. Anonymous3:52 am

    Please stop overplaying the importance of this. While a few people may be spared cancer; (a) people smoking a few less cigarettes each week is unlikely to save them; (b) I assume that most people who get cancer from second-hand smoking LIVE with a smoker. You folks are exaggerating the importance of this, and of yourselves. Please spare us, the minister of health does have good intentions but he is unlikely to really change anything.

  6. You totally missed the point, Ken.

    [Ironically, in fighting heart disease, cancer and other diseases, "we're keeping people alive so they can live long enough to get Alzheimer's disease," explains association vice president Steve McConnell."]

    Your efforts will not "save lives", at best you will doom people to die from adult dementias such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's instead of cancer or heart attacks.

    And your health care cost savings argument is a fraud:
    Lung Cancer = $24,413
    Alzheimer's = $170,000

    Not that the cost argument matters to ME at all - because I actually believe in the underlying principle of public health care, I don't just pay lip service to it. I'm prepared to accept my tax rate rising from 16% to 20% or even 25% if the money is used at maximum efficiency and provides adequate care for our elderly. Are you willing to make that kind of sacrifice?

  7. Anonymous3:59 pm

    My Son - let me be sure I understand what you are saying. We should let smokers die young so we don't have to take care of them in old age. Why? Because it is cheaper in the long run. Is that it?

  8. Anonymous5:39 pm

    Thanks Ken, I meant to place my comment under that title. I just wanted to point out that your previous viewpoint was deficient; it left out the fact that the Liberals were very aware of torture allegations while they were in office and did nothing.

  9. No, Ken. I am the one willing to carry the cost burden - regardless of the cause - remember? You are the one who is obsessed with costs.

    You should allow smokers to determine their own fate, because you have no right to attempt to determine for someone else how long they should live or what their cause of death should be.

    Unless you are God. Are you?

  10. Anonymous6:10 pm

    Good day my Son!

    I too am happy to "carry the costs" of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's patients within the health care system. We don't know how to treat those diseases very well yet - never mind prevent them and they are part and parcel of our system.

    They are not the same as smoking. That needs to be treated in health care as a drug addiction. We should be carying those costs in the system as well

    I am most interested in positive actions that go to reducing preventable health care costs by individual responsibility and social action. This is a different set of issues.

    BTW - Of course I think I am God...I am a typical lawyer after all ;+}

  11. Anonymous7:56 pm

    AP don't get too excited about Ken and Hancock. Ken promotes Hancock almost as much as that Success by 6 charity (which spends a ridiculous amount of money promoting Hancock instead of helping kids). Hancock is suffering a major decline in popularity in his riding and this smoking ban is meant to generate some feel good publicity for Hancock's sagging fortunes.

    I'm sure Ken will chat up Hancock some more when Hancock announces a school or some other major work in his riding a few weeks before the next election.

  12. So, in your discussions with these business and labor leaders, did they talk about plans to call for legislation to reduce the preventable medical errors that cause 24,000 deaths per year in our country and many more cases of permanent disability?

    No? What a surprise! NOT!

    And did they talk about their plans to call for legislation that would ban their own members from driving by schools, playgrounds or medical facilities - spewing fine particle vehicle exhaust linked to childhood asthma as well as heart disease and lung cancer?

    No? Wow, they really are devoted to...cowardly scapegoating of powerless minorities, while hypocritically ignoring the health hazards generated by their own members or members of wealthy & powerful elites.


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