Frequently Asked Questions
though Heather never smoked, she said she had a ‘smoker’s
tumour.’ What did she mean by that?
the first person in Canada to receive worker’s compensation
because of second-hand smoke at work?
compensation does Heather receive?
Was the WSIB
decision to compensate Heather politically motivated?
said, “I want to be last person to die from second-hand smoke at
work.” Is her campaign making a difference?
Even though Heather never smoked, she said she had a ‘smoker’s
tumour.’ What did she mean by that?
diagnosed in the summer of 2002 with stage 3B non small cell lung
cancer – adenocarcinoma – in the upper lobe of her left lung.
Adenocarcinoma is the most common form of lung cancer in smokers,
but all forms of lung cancer are caused by tobacco smoke. About
85% of lung cancer victims die within five years. There is no
cure for lung cancer and treatment is only rarely effective.
These days, few
people have any significant exposure to risk factors for lung
cancer, other than cigarette smoke. Other risk factors mainly
arise from asbestos, radon and certain hazardous occupations in
mining and smeltering. Certainly, Heather never smoked; she does
not live with any smokers, and never had any significant exposure
to any other risk factors for lung cancer, except second-hand
smoke at work in smokey restaurants and banquet halls. And she
was exposed to a lot of that. During her 40-year career as a
waitress, she often worked 60 hours a week in order to earn enough
money to support her family on a waitress’s meagre wages.
Lung cancer is
unfortunately very common among smokers (14,000 deaths a year in
Canada), much less common but still all too frequent among
second-hand smokers like Heather (350 deaths a year), and almost
unknown among people with little or no exposure to cigarette
cancer is so frequent among smokers and so infrequent among
non-smokers, all forms of lung cancer are popularly referred to as
“smokers’ tumours.” And that is what Heather calls her tumour – a
smoker’s tumour. Tragically, in Heather’s case, it is a
second-hand smoker’s tumour.
Heather the first person in Canada to receive worker’s
compensation because of second-hand smoke at work?
have been others. However, Heather’s is the first case we know of
where full compensation has been awarded due to lung cancer from
How much compensation does Heather receive?
Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) will reimburse
Heather’s medical expenses and will make modest payments to
compensate her disabilities and impairments. WSIB also pays a
loss of earnings benefit, which is a fraction of her modest
waitress’ wages, before tips. Should Heather live to be 65, this
benefit will then expire.
Was the WSIB decision to compensate Heather politically
WSIB was guided by nothing but the truth – and the truth is that
Heather Crowe has lung cancer caused by 40 years of exposure to
second-hand smoke at work. Here is what the Jill Watson, the WSIB
adjudicator, said in the written WSIB decision on Heather’s case:
2002, you started experiencing symptoms, which progressively
worsened, and you sought medical treatment. You were subsequently
tested for, diagnosed with and treated for lung cancer.
“Corroboration and compatibility of the history of second hand
smoke exposure to the diagnosis of lung cancer was confirmed by
you, your employer, your treating physicians, literature provided
by your lawyer as well as the City of Ottawa Public Health
Department, WSIB Nurse Case Manager, WSIB Occupational Hygienists
and WSIB Occupational Medical Consultants.
“Based on the
information provided to date and entitlement criteria being met, I
have allowed your cancer claim…”
Heather has said, “I want to be last person to die from
second-hand smoke at work.” Is her campaign making a difference?
Every month, the list of Canadian territories, provinces and
municipalities that ban smoking in all workplaces grows longer and
longer. Many of these banned smoking after Heather visited them
and made a personal appeal for smoke-free workplaces. Right now,
about 16% of Canadians live in jurisdictions where they have full
protection from exposure to second-hand smoke in workplaces,
including bars and restaurants (http://www.smoke-free.ca/pdf_1/Q&A-smokefreecommunities.pdf).
The list grows longer every month. We all hope that Heather’s
dream will come true in just a few more years, and that she will
live to see the day when 100% of Canadian workers are protected
from exposure to second-hand smoke at work.