News Releases

Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada 
Union of Canadian Correctional Officers

Canadian Dental Association Non Smokers' Rights Association Ontario Campaign for Action on Tobacco

June 27, 2006

Minister Of Labour Urged to Provide Legislated Protection from Second-Hand Smoke

(Ottawa) – On the heels of new U.S. Surgeon-General’s report demonstrating that second-hand smoke is even more dangerous than previously thought, Canadian health and labour organizations are calling on the federal minister of labour, the honourable Jean-Pierre Blackburn, to provide federally-regulated workers with effective and legislated protection from exposure to second hand smoke.

Although several Canadian provinces have passed laws which ban smoking in all workplaces,  Canadians who work for the federal government, for banks, telecommunications or other federally-regulated sectors are not covered by these laws.

"The only federal law governing smoking in the workplace, the 1989 Non-Smokers' Health Act, is now badly out of date and needs to be replaced with a complete ban on smoking in all workplaces under federal jurisdiction - with no ifs, ands or butts," said Neil Collishaw, research director at Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada. "As a result, many federally regulated workers continue to be exposed to second hand smoke on a regular basis."

"Our members are the forgotten workers. In the words of the late Heather Crowe, correctional officers are treated like second-class workers with second-class lungs," said Mr. Sylvain Martel, president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers (UCCO-SACC-CSN).

"It seems outrageous to me that the federal government, the same federal government that produced a television ad featuring Heather Crowe's tragic story of dying from second-hand smoke at work, exactly one day after the death of Heather Crowe, would be arguing before a Tribunal in Kingston, Ontario, that I and my fellow officers should be made to suffer continuing exposure to second-hand smoke at work," said Howard Page, a correctional officer at Millhaven Institution.  "We don't need further poisoning; we need protection," he concluded.

On October 3, 2005, Howard Page exercised his right to refuse to work in an unsafe workplace. The refusal was upheld by the inspecting Health and Safety Officer, who issued a direction to Correctional Service Canada (CSC) to protect workers from the danger of second hand smoke by October 14, 2005.  Instead of complying with the order, CSC launched legal appeals, and continues to delay implementing effective protection measures.

UCCO-SACC-CSN has, since 2003, called for a complete ban on tobacco products within federal prisons – a ban that several provinces have already successfully implemented in their correctional systems. Despite a ban on smoking in federal penitentiaries that came into effect at the end of January 2006, inmates continue to smoke in their cells and elsewhere in all federal institutions.

“Even though smoking is not allowed in most workplaces under federal jurisdiction (federal prisons and some airports are notable exceptions), there is not a single one of the one million or so workers under federal jurisdiction that has protection from second-hand smoke at work that is guaranteed in law," said Neil Collishaw.

Earlier today, the United States Surgeon-General released a new report updating the scientific conclusions about the health hazards of second-hand smoke. Now, twenty years later, the Surgeon-General finds second-hand smoke to be even more dangerous than was known in 1986, when the Surgeon-General's report of that year concluded, "Involuntary smoking is a cause of disease, including lung cancer, in healthy non-smokers." Now second-hand smoke has been linked to heart disease, stroke and many other diseases.

"It's time to stop the killing.  Minister Blackburn, please give Mr. Page and every other worker under federal jurisdiction the guaranteed legal protection they deserve from second-hand smoke at work," urged Mr. Martel.

"Heather Crowe said that she wanted to be the last person to die from second-hand smoke at work.  Please, Minister Blackburn, help make Heather's wish come true," concluded Howard Page.

Supporting this appeal for improvements to federal law are the Canadian Dental Association, the Non Smokers' Rights Association and the Ontario Campaign for Action on Tobacco.

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For information:    

Neil Collishaw, Research Director
Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada
Telephones: Office 1 613 233 4878, mobile 1 613 850 5594

Lyle Stewart, CSN Communications Service: 1 514 796 2066