First, many thanks to EVERYONE who supported me and ‘the cause’; you have no idea how much I appreciate it!
Anyone who has been an anti-tobacco activist for more than 5 minutes is painfully aware of ‘disappointment’. It’s now been 3 days since I completed the ‘run, walk or crawl’ portion of the Journey for a Tobacco-Free World (JTFW)… and the disappointment of ZERO MEDIA in New York City (NYC) is still stinging, big time.
Despite a great deal of progress (in terms of smoking bans, tobacco advertising and sponsorship bans, etc.), the carnage caused by tobacco industry products continues, virtually unfettered. In fact, it’s getting worse… much worse! And fast!
Forty-six years after the first U.S. Surgeon-General’s Report on the hazards of smoking — with the current annual global death toll from tobacco industry products standing at 5.4 million — the World Health Organization is predicting that that death toll will actually DOUBLE within the next 10 years, primarily as a result of the tobacco industry’s extremely successful (and ongoing, with no end in sight) ‘rape and pillage’ program in developing nations… most notably, in Africa and, as always, targeting kids in their early teens and even pre-teens (the industry’s “new recruits” and/or “replacement smokers”).
For very good and obvious reasons, so many of us are often too quick to point the finger of blame primarily (or even exclusively) at the tobacco industry. That is a big mistake! ALL LEVELS OF GOVERNMENT (but especially federal governments of the world, both individually and collectively) ARE — because of their general ignorance and/or refusal to recognize the tobacco epidemic for what it is…and deal with it accordingly — ULTIMATELY RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE SITUATION!
And so it was that, after well over 30 years of anti-tobacco activism under my belt, I set off on the Journey for a Tobacco-Free World. It was a truly amazing and life-changing half year for me…and something that could not have happened without the absolutely incredible support of all of you: Family, friends, colleagues and even the hundreds of complete strangers I met along the way. Much more about that later but, for now, please allow me to ‘vent’ a little more about one of the biggest ‘disappointments’ of my life.
On Sunday, November 26, 2010, at about 4:00 p.m., I officially completed my 6,000 kilometre trans-continental anti-tobacco “run, walk or crawl” — “from Victoria to Montreal”, then south to New York City — by dipping my foot in the Atlantic Ocean (at Rockaway Point, directly south of Brooklyn) exactly 182 days, 2 hours and 20 minutes after dipping my foot in the Pacific.
Clearly, one of the biggest moments of my life… and nobody else was there!
Feel free to feel a little sad for me (okay, that’s enough!) but, to all of my family and friends — and to all of those anti-tobacco colleagues and the hundreds of complete strangers who supported me — do not feel any guilt whatsoever. You may be thinking that if you had given more, the outcome might have been different. But please don’t: No matter the size of the contribution (whether in terms of one or more of the following; time, energy, money, best wishes and/or even just a big thumbs up, a toot of the horn and a wave, etc.) that each and every one of you made, it was very much appreciated.
What ultimately determines how ‘successful’ — or not — a project like the JTFW will be is the media. And while I am extremely grateful for all of the (mostly small-town) media coverage the JTFW did receive, there was, clearly, not enough of it; it just never ‘snow-balled’ in the same way that other such events have in the past.
Despite the best efforts of Gar Mahood (Executive Director of the world-renowned Non-Smokers’ Rights Association) — as well as my calls to 14 of the biggest media outlets in Toronto — the JTFW got absolutely ZERO MEDIA coverage in Toronto. Perhaps it was the International Thumb-Twiddling Competition that had the Toronto media’s undivided attention!?!
The Quebec Coalition for Tobacco Control (in Montreal) — and many of its member/partner organizations — helped me get over that as they organized what turned out to be the biggest and best reception/protest outside the Canadian head office of Imperial Tobacco. As I mentioned to the media who attended that event (after telling them that the JTFW was continuing south, to NYC), the QCTC had set the bar very high for my colleagues in NYC.
I suppose it could be argued that my timing, to wrap up the JTFW, could have been better: The original plan was to arrive in NYC on “Black Friday”, the day after (the American) Thanksgiving.
But here’s a guy who’s on the verge of completing his 6-month, 6,000 km JTFW, doing his small part to prevent the deaths of more than 1,100 Americans, EACH AND EVERY DAY! And what captured the attention (and, dare I say, the imagination) of the New York media? THE DRESS CODE FOR NYC CABBIES!!! Apparently some NYC taxi customers/passengers have not been amused when they discover what their driver is — or is not, as the case may be — wearing. In addition to muscle shirts and tank tops, some NYC cabbies have been seen wearing…wait for it…bathing suits! Interesting? Funny? Disgusting? Whatever! Nobody ever died as a result of what any cabbie was or wasn’t wearing!
In closing: I’ve never been good at asking for help of any kind…least of all, money. But, with a great deal of practice over the last couple of years (especially the last 6 months), it has become somewhat easier, despite all of the (mostly corporate) rejection.
IF YOU OR A LOVED ONE HAVE BEEN TOUCHED BY TOBACCO — AND YOU WANT THE BIGGEST BANG FOR YOUR ANTI-TOBACCO BUCK — PLEASE SEND IT TO: Airspace Action on Smoking and Health Box 18004, 1215c 56th St. Delta, B.C. (Canada) V4L 2M4
And I say that with one caveat: If you’ve already contributed, we do NOT want more money from you; we only want money from those millions of people who have not yet contributed!
Well, this is definitely not my most eloquent writing ever, but let me end it with what I believe are a couple of excellent questions:
WHAT PART OF “Tobacco is, by far, the leading — and most easily and cheaply preventable — cause of disease, disability and premature death.” DO POLITICIANS (especially those in government) NOT UNDERSTAND?
HOW BAD DOES IT HAVE TO GET BEFORE GOVERNMENTS OF THE WORLD TAKE OFF THE KID GLOVES AND TREAT TOBACCO LIKE THE EPIDEMIC THAT IT TRULY IS?
Again, THANK YOU ALL, SO MUCH, FOR ALL OF YOUR WONDERFUL SUPPORT! SEE YA SOON!!!