Anti-tobacco activism makes a wrong turn of a different sort

Chris Snowdon has written extensively and convincingly about how anti-tobacco, once an idealistic volunteer movement that was the David to industry’s Goliath, is now a tax-funded, wealthy, professional operation that is a Goliath that bullies those of us who do not toe their line and even bullies the industry.  Apparently this guy did not get the memo:  He is nearing the end of his cross-Canada running trek to raise money for anti-tobacco.  I really doubt that the rich anti-tobacco movement in Canada was really worried about whether they would get the $47,000 that he was hoping to gather in donations (which is good for them since he is 90% short of his goal).

On a brief serious note, this should remind us of a class of victims of the anti-tobacco extremists that is often overlooked, those who are duped into volunteering their precious time and idealism for a misguided, cynical, billion dollar activist industry.  Presumably this guy was just looking for an excuse to run across Canada, though if not duped, he could have found a cause more in need (the only thing that would have been a comparable waste of grassroots idealism on a so-wealthy-it-just-throws-money-away cause would have been running for “breast cancer awareness”).  But whatever you might think of that guy, I have seen a lot of idealistic students get suckered into pointless and often dishonest volunteer work for the extremists.

On a less serious note (and, I will admit, my real motivation for this post), from the article:

“It’s a huge struggle,” Povah said from Ottawa Tuesday, adding the lack of support crew or sponsors is a major disappointment.


After the trek ends in Montreal, Povah hopes to make a dogleg through the U.S. in November to visit the New York City headquarters of the Philip Morris cigarette company.

Would it be cruel to donate a few dollars to him so he can make it on to NYC, just so we could see his face when he got there and discovered that he was running a few years too slow and he has most of another 600 km to go.  (PM moved its headquarters from NYC back to Richmond almost a decade ago.  Its parent company, Altria, followed in 2008.)  Even if he has no money to bring the cause, at least he has proven he has anti-tobacco-extremist-quality research skills.

(Oh, and yes it would be cruel.  So never mind — that is just not us.)

– Carl V. Phillips

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  • Christopher Snowdon  On October 27, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    Funny post Carl. I’ve just been reading about this guy on Wikipedia and watching his videos too. Quite a fellow and one with the best of intentions, I’m sure. I actually like people like this, just as I have a strange respect for Lucy Page Gaston and Lennox Johnston. He might be a bit of a crank, but he’s a sincere one. I’d be interested to know whether his insistence that nicotine is not addictive has driven a wedge between him and the wider anti-tobacco industry. He certainly sounds unhappy about the lack of support he’s received.

    Still, I have to say that his version of a cross-country trek is somehow less glamorous than it could be:

    “Because he is doing it solo, he’s worked out a complicated daily schedule in which he parks his van on the side of the road and runs or walks back five kilometres or so, then returns to the van and does the same in the other direction.”

  • Ann W.  On October 27, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    Chris and Carl, the two of you are kidding about Povah (The Grim Reaper)right? He is as anti as the come. He just didn’t reach the same level of fame as Mahood, Collishaw or Cunningham did but had he the power as those three, things would become very ugly.

  • Christopher Snowdon  On October 27, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    And that’s why I don’t mind him, Ann! Like Johnston and Gaston, it’s easier to have a grudging admiration for people when they’re destined to fail. If he had any degree of power, I agree he’d be intolerable.

  • Carl V Phillips  On October 28, 2010 at 7:40 am

    I tend to make my assessments on what people actually do rather than what they profess. I peg him as dupe in this matter rather than temporarily detoured member of the anti establishment because of the point about institutionalization: If he were really just one of the current crop of antis, he would take a six-figure job with them and settle in, not live in his van. Having employed the sophisticated that would have revealed to him that his trip to NYC would be in vain (i.e., I googled him since I really did not know anything about him), it appears that he may have been at this from the days that idealism was appropriate, but was just not one who cashed in on the 1998 IPO. (Chris, do you think we could get it to catch on to refer to the rich-ification of the antis that way?) He also has done genuinely idealistic work recently (Sea Shepherds and such). Thus, however annoying he might be to some, he still reminds me of those twenty-year-olds who get tricked into volunteering their time to help Glaxo eliminate its competition.

  • Ann W.  On October 28, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    Carl, I have had personal interaction with Errol, on forums and by email. He scares the daylights out of me but it is always good to face ones fears, hence the email exchange – lol.

    Error has a true hate on for the tobacco industry and shows his contempt towards people who smoke and show no shame.

    here is the link to one of his blogs on a demonstration that I organized at a anti tobacco conference that he did not attend.

    “this ‘6-pack’ of idi… I mean, individuals.. represented their puppet-masters at the nicotine cartel quite well. ”

  • Ann W.  On October 28, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    lol – why do I always call him Error when I write about him??????

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