Errol Povah's Journey for a Tobacco-Free World


An old friend of mine died of cancer a couple of months ago, at the age of 57. Gail smoked Tareyton 100's for much of her adult life. She underwent chemotherapy a couple of years ago, and started smoking again when the treatments were complete. She wanted to live long enough to see her daughter graduate from medical school, and came up a couple of years short.

This tragic story will be repeated 5.4 million times this year.

In 1980, Terry Fox started a run across Canada to raise awareness about cancer. His effort was completed in 1985 by Steve Fonyo. Over $500 million has been raised for cancer research in Fox's name.

No research whatsoever was necessary to determine the cause of Gail's death, and we've all heard the saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Another old friend of mine, Errol Povah, is following in the steps of Fox and Fonyo to raise awareness about prevention.

Errol started the Journey for a Tobacco-Free World on World No Tobacco Day, May 31, 2010, in Victoria, BC. His plan is to run and walk at least as far as Montreal, where the Canadian branch of British American Tobacco has its corporate office. If time permits, he will continue to New York, the headquarters of Philip Morris International.

Errol is doing this to promote what is, for most people, a new idea: the same criteria that was applied to thalidomide and DDT should also be applied to cigarettes. The manufacture and sale of cigarettes should be banned, worldwide. And no, Errol did not come up with this idea as a response to those who say, “if cigarettes are so bad, why doesn't the government just outlaw them?”

The comparison to DDT is especially useful, because it was manufactured and exported by the US until 1985, 13 years after most uses of it were banned in the US. The effort by anti-tobacco activists to de-normalize cigarettes has been successful in most of Canada and the US, but on a global scale, tobacco consumption is increasing, and tobacco production has increased by nearly 30% in China over the past ten years. Unfortunately, Errol was unable to arrange to make his journey across China instead of Canada. Maybe next year, but for now, Errol is making an important point; those of us fortunate to live in Canada or the US can take a plane flight or eat a meal in a restaurant without having someone else's cigarette in our faces, and the tobacco industry's lobbyists (with the notable exception of Barbara McDougall) are no longer very welcome in Ottawa and Victoria. There are people in other parts of the world that are not so fortunate. Within the past three years, I have personally seen a seven-year old boy selling cigarettes in Nicaragua.

I met up with Errol on June 9, about 15 km. beyond Hope. That's an old joke; other than some predictable blisters on his feet, Errol is doing fine. If all goes well, he should arrive in Merritt, BC on June 11, and Kamloops, BC on June 13.

Contributions to support the Journey for a Tobacco-Free World can be made by PayPal.

One more thing; you can help send me to Netroots Nation in Las Vegas at the end of July; click here, then click “click here to voice your support...”.