Champion for Tobacco-Free Living Awards

The Lung Association & Heart and Stroke Foundation recognize

community leadership on tobacco issues

Winners of the Champion for Tobacco-Free Living Awards are chosen by the BC Lung Association and the Heart and Stroke Foundation (B.C. & Yukon) for their long-term contribution to clearing the air of second-hand smoke, helping people quit smoking and encouraging British Columbians to stay tobacco- free. Nominees are selected by community members, public health staff and health care professionals. Launched in 2013, the awards are presented annually during January National Non-Smoking Week.

Read the News Release here. Download winners' photos here.


Ray Ali's Story

2013 Champion for Tobacco-Free Living Award Winner




left to right

Ray Ali,

The Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy Chain &

Scott McDonadl,

BC Lung Association

Ray’s career in the pharmacy industry began only seven years ago, but his interest in helping people quit smoking originated long ago closer to home.

“I watched my cousin struggle to quit for years. In fact, he’s still struggling,” he says. “Smoking is a serious addiction and people who smoke need all the help and support they can get.”

Since joining the Medicine Shoppe, Ray has put his entrepreneurial strengths to work, establishing a quit smoking training program for pharmacists, as well as developing partnerships with the BC Lung Association QuitNow Team, the Canadian Mental Health Association and others.

“As I began to learn how much broader the pharmacist’s role could be, a light went on,” he says. “I recognized a lot could be achieved by creating synergies with health organizations who shared a similar view of the pharmacist’s expanding role.”

According to Ray, pharmacists are eager to learn – and to expand the ways in which they help customers. Since launching his quit smoking training, he’s received rave reviews from participants.

“I’ve been overwhelmed with the positive feedback,” he says. “Many pharmacists have taken time to contact me and relay that the quit smoking training is the best continuing education they’ve had since graduating from pharmacy school. Their feedback speaks volumes.”

Based on the program’s success, Ray plans to take the training national, with a little help from willing allies. He says, “We have 170 Medicine Shoppe Pharmacies across Canada and 70 have already expressed interest. The trick will be finding partners in other provinces, like we have here in BC, but I’m optimistic!”

Dr. Fred Bass’s story

2013 Champion for Tobacco-Free Living Award Winner




left to right

Diego Marchese,

Heart and Stroke Fountation (B.C. & Yukon)

& Dr. Fred Bass

Never one to sit on the sidelines, Dr. Bass is tireless in his efforts to make a difference.

“Before I came to Canada I worked in tuberculosis (TB) control and witnessed a dramatic change in TB treatment from years in a remote hospital to a few months plus prolonged medication. I saw the applicability of the new TB model to the ignored epidemic of cigarette smoking and wrote about it both in the US and after arrival in Canada.”

Dr. Bass’s career in preventive medicine and social activism spans a half a century, from US Army Preventive Medicine physician to tobacco consultant and also climate activist.

Originally from the US, Dr. Bass joined the Vancouver Health Department in 1975. Soon after, he collaborated with the BC Medical Association to found its Tobacco and Illness Committee. This trailblazing group of physicians helped reframe thinking of tobacco addiction as an epidemic, tobacco as a dangerous product and the tobacco industry as a main propagator of the epidemic. Dr. Bass chaired the committee for two decades.

Dr Bass notes, “Today, some of what we have learned from wrestling with tobacco addiction has application to our other smoking problem—burning too much carbon and changing the earth’s climate in the process.” In May 2012 Bass was arrested for the first time in his life in White Rock for blocking a coal train from the US headed for Roberts Bank and then to Asia. He says, “Burning coal is the leading people-based cause of steeply-rising CO2 in the atmosphere and it is driving radical climate change.”

Dr. Bass has fought the dangers of tobacco use at all levels from advocating smoke-free workplaces to Vancouver city council, to helping smokers to quit, to rallying against the only industry allowed to market a lethal product that kills its users.

Dr. Bass also founded the ‘BC Doctors’ Stop-Smoking Program’ in 1989 to help BC doctors help their patients to stop smoking. In 1997 the program evolved into ‘the Society for Clinical Preventive Care’ which sought until 2007 to make all effective forms of clinical prevention a reality.

“As a physician, I’ve spent my career trying to get our healthcare system to address the underlying causes of disease through prevention as well as treatment,” says Dr. Bass. “Smoking is still the #1 preventable cause of death and disease. Yet, to quote the US Surgeon General’s latest guideline, ‘…it is difficult to identify any other condition that presents such a mix of lethality, prevalence and neglect, despite effective and readily available interventions’.”

After decades as an anti-tobacco advocate, Dr. Bass reflects, “Not that long ago, people smoked virtually everywhere. In the 1960s, nearly half of all adults puffed away. But as the result of cumulative measures over time including smoking bans, cigarette tax increases, graphic warnings on packaging and clinical tobacco intervention; smoking prevalence has fallen in many parts of the western world. In fact, as a society, we have abandoned smoking tobacco faster than we got hooked on it—not bad, considering how addictive cigarettes are. ”

Rose Marie Borutski’s story

2013 Champion for Tobacco-Free Living Award Winner





Rose Marie Borutski

In 2007, Rose Marie moved into a smoke-free apartment in a social housing complex. Little did she know she would be surrounded by tobacco users above and below and forced to fight for her right to breathe clean air.

Rose Marie felt sick and helpless. She spoke with neighbours and found 44 others equally aggravated. Together they delivered a petition to their landlord, but to no avail. Next, she filed a Humans Right Complaint, an exercise requiring years of research and writing and she drained much of her little disability discretionary income. Still, nothing.

In early 2012, five years later, the situation at Kiwanis Park Place still hadn’t improved, but Rose Marie’s perseverance paid off. She was told she would receive a monthly ‘Private Market Rent Subsidy’. This enabled her to move out and rent a smoke-free rental unit in an unsubsidized housing complex.

While grateful, Rose Marie knows she is one of very few given the subsidy and she refuses to give up the fight on behalf of countless others forced to suffer and unable to afford their way out.

“Receiving the market rent subsidy only confirms there continues to be a real shortage of smoke-free, social housing available to others like me who live on limited incomes,” she says.

So Rose Marie battles on, buoyed by glimmerings of progress and public acknowledgment of her efforts. She authors a popular blog on the issue called ‘Canadians PUSH for Smoke-Free Housing.’ She’s also penned a few thousands pages on the subject of Big Tobacco, and is in pursuit of an editor.

“It’s encouraging to be acknowledged and I’m thankful for the rent subsidy. I’m happy Rich Coleman, Minister Responsible for Housing, has at long last acknowledged second-hand smoke as a legal source of nuisance, which threatens tenants’ right to quiet enjoyment and thus requires landlords to act when a complaint is filed.”

Dr. Peter Coy’s story

2013 Champion for Tobacco-Free Living Award Winner




Dr. Peter Coy


Scott McDonald 

BC Lung Association


Jack Boomer

BC Lung Association


While Dr. Coy’s Canadian medical career began in Vancouver at the BC Cancer Institute and continued in Victoria when he became Director of the Vancouver Island Cancer Centre, his efforts to address the harms of tobacco use began at home in his native UK.

“When my wife and I were still living near Manchester in the early 1960s, my mother-in-law took care of our two daughters,” he says. “She was a heavy smoker and I was aware of studies linking smoking and lung cancer. My challenge was how to protect our children without aggravating my mother-in-law. It was back then I first learned the importance of diplomacy in addressing smoking issues that continues to this day.”

For the last 50 years, Dr. Coy has played a leadership role both locally and internationally in many aspects of lung cancer ranging from prevention, early diagnosis and treatment to palliative care.

Dr. Coy’s crowning achievement was leading the Capital Regional District’s Smoke-Free Task Force since the late 1980s. The task force worked tirelessly to implement smoking bans in all public places in Victoria and its surrounding areas, the first region in Canada to do so. Given the entrenchment of the tobacco industry at the time, this was no simple feat.

“Overcoming the opposition of those whose businesses were affected by growing smoke-free places bans and tobacco sales policies was not easy, but we succeeded,” he says. “We were also able to drive increases in school education, prevention and quit smoking programs, and build public awareness of the harmful effects of second-hand smoke in homes and vehicles, particularly on children.”

The task force’s hard work has been rewarded with a drop in smoking rates in BC, from 50% in the 1960s to 14% today, but the fight is far from over. Dr. Coy voices concern that we have become complacent, and that more must be done to persuade young people not to pick up the habit.

”Young adults continue to start smoking and become addicts in significant numbers,” he points out. “The challenge we face is keeping tobacco issues in the public eye so that politicians are not let off the hook, and current regulations are enforced. The international tobacco industry is certainly not going away and will only continue to find newer, more insidious ways to market this lethally addictive product.”

Errol Povah’s story

2013 Champion for Tobacco-Free Living Award Winner




Errol Poval

left to right

Jack Boomer,

Scott McDonald, 

BC Lung Association

According to Errol, his career in anti-tobacco advocacy began in the backseat of his parents’ car.

“When Mom or Dad decided it was time for a smoke, my pink lungs and still-developing body just hated it, and I made an almighty fuss,” he says. “They both quit when I was 15, but as it turns out I was only just getting started.”

Errol officially became an anti-tobacco advocate at 25, shortly after serving three years in the Canadian Navy, which further cemented his hatred of smoking.

“On Canadian warships at the time there were no smoking restrictions whatsoever,” he says. “People smoked where they ate and slept. I’d had enough; I wanted change.”

Fast forward 30 years and one could write a book about all the ways Errol has supported and contributed to progress made on tobacco use reduction and protection. Some of his favourite memories, he says, were when he interacted with young people as his alter-ego, the Grim Reaper.

“I would be wearing my ‘Grim Reaper’ costume and carrying a placard saying, ‘Hey kids, please smoke’,” he says. “They would get angry and indignant. That’s when I’d take off my mask, and explain that the tobacco industry was subliminally promoting that very same message and getting kids hooked on smoking for life. Then we’d speak about why it was important never to start.”

Since then Errol’s passion has taken him around the world.

In 2006, he travelled to Washington, DC to join hundreds of protestors demanding the US support the World Health Organization’s global treaty on tobacco regulation.

“My sign read ‘Tobacco kills more people worldwide every 6 hours than were killed in the all of the 9/11 attacks.’ And on the flip side, ‘Sort of makes you wonder who the real terrorists are, doesn't it?’”

On World No Tobacco Day - May 31, 2010 - Errol set off on a six month marathon journey from Victoria to Imperial Tobacco’s Montreal Headquarters then south to New York City. He travelled the entire 6300km route on foot, walking six days a week to raise awareness about tobacco use.

Errol is currently working to promote the need for smoke-free multi-unit housing and better enforcement of smoking bans around hospitals and public transit facilities.

“Enforcement is critical,” says Errol. “If smoking bylaws aren’t aggressively enforced and penalties not steep enough, people will never take them seriously.”

The Fraser Street Apartments story

2013 Champion for Tobacco-Free Living Award Winner




left to right

Darlene Fiddler,

Fraser Street Apartments &

Veda Peters,

BC Lung Association

It all began when Vancouver Community Health Services approached Fraser Street Apartments and proposed a smoke-free pilot project. The idea was to reduce the harms of second-hand smoke on tenants and staff by implementing a 100% smoke-free policy, but the project evolved quickly into something more.

Darlene Fiddler, Manager of Fraser Streets Apartments, admits encountering a few hurdles at first.

“We quickly realized if we wanted things to work, those of us who smoked – including me - would have to start by becoming tobacco-free ourselves,” she says.

About half the staff smoked, and quitting wasn’t easy, but we did it. “We supported one another and we learned a lot. Most importantly, we earned the respect of our tenants.”

The next step was creating tenant buy-in and designing a road map for becoming smoke-free.

“We gave our tenants lots of notice, provided workshops and education on the importance of a smoke-free environment and made quit smoking tools such as free nicotine patches available for those who wanted them,” says Darlene.

In the end, all of Fraser Street Apartments’ tenants supported the change.

“I think the key to our success was our approach,” says Darlene. “It really helped that tenants saw us quit. It made them more willing. We didn’t force anyone to quit, but instead presented the benefits of quitting. Our focus was always to create a healthier work environment for staff, and a healthier living environment for tenants, not to single out smokers.”

Since becoming a smoke-free housing site, Darlene says they’ve had no trouble attracting new tenants.

“Most market housing nowadays is non-smoking and tenants want to be prepared for it when the time comes to move,” she says. “We’ve not had one person refuse to stay here because we’re smoke-free. Instead, they really appreciate that we’re providing a healthy living environment.”

This is particularly beneficial for tenants with compromised immune systems and respiratory issues, who tend to be sensitive to smoke, so it cuts down on potential health complications.

As for the future, Fraser Street Apartments' healthy living commitment has tenants getting proactive.

“Now they’re asking for healthier meals and snacks, and more interested in fitness,” Darlene says. “We’ve started leading daily walks and even got our local YMCA to offer interested tenants a gym/swim pass discount!”

Grouse Mountain’s Story

2013 Champion for Tobacco-Free Living Award Winner




left to right

Charmaine Carswell

Director of HR with

Michael Cameron

General Manager of

Grouse Mountain Resort

and Veda Peters

BC Lung Association


Like all businesses, the tourism sector is driven financially, but the decision to become a smoke-free environment wasn’t based on economics, according to Grouse Mountain HR director Charmaine Carswell.

”We chose to do it because it aligned with our mission of being a health-oriented, family-friendly environment,” she says. “As a recreation provider, we wanted to be a leader by exemplifying good health practices, and from a safety perspective we benefit by minimizing the risk of forest fire during the summer months.”

The catalyst for the move began in 2007, when Grouse Mountain wanted to go smoke free as a result of some new government legislation. Grouse Mountain contacted the BC Cancer Society for information and assistance in moving towards an ambitious, totally smoke-free operation. Its Human Resources and Health and Safety departments worked together with the BC Lung Association and the Canadian Cancer Society to develop a strategy to become 100% smoke- free. All parties were interested in leading an initiative to combat tobacco use in the workplace and particularly wanted to target young people.

“We’re the number one youth employer on the North Shore, so making the connection with us made sense,” says Charmaine. “We worked collaboratively with them to do the right thing and ban smoking throughout the entire premise, including the outdoor space, not just offices and vehicles. It was considered an ambitious project!”

In the early smoke-free days, ‘quit and win’ contests were particularly popular with the company’s young staff. Charmaine says, “The Cancer Society brought over carbon monoxide (CO) detectors to read the level of CO in participants’ blood, which tend to be high in those who smoke. It was amazing at the end of the contest to
watch people who had quit getting tested again. The drop in CO levels was huge and provided a tangible indication of just how much healthier quitters were becoming.”

Now in its fifth year as a smoke-free resort, Grouse Mountain continues to support and encourage employees who are ready to quit, making them aware of free support available and subsidizing quit-smoking aids.

Since becoming smoke-free, the resort has been asked to share lessons learned with others including, Seymour and Cypress mountains as well as internationally. “There’s a lot of interest in learning from our experience, which has been nothing but positive,” says Charmaine.

Dan MacQuarrie’s story

2013 Champion for Tobacco-Free Living Award Winner



Dan MacQuarrie

courtesy of the

Salmon Arm Observer Newspaper


In the late 1940s, Dan had a job trucking oilfield equipment from Edmonton, Alberta to Unity, Saskatchewan. “In those days, to be a man in the oilfield was to smoke. And I inhaled three packs a day,” he says.

Dan recalls the moment he finally quit. “It was early, about 6 am, and I was nearing Oyen, Alberta. I knew a place that served breakfast at 7am. On my way I lit up a cigarette and started coughing – and just couldn’t stop. Finally, I asked myself, ‘who’s the boss here, me or the cigarette?’ At that very moment I picked up my last pack of cigarettes and fired them out the window. I never smoked again.”

Years later, in 1975, during Dan’s first of three terms as Alderman for the District of Salmon Arm, he suggested there be no smoking in public buildings. At the time, one was allowed to smoke everywhere – in meetings, at restaurants, bars, and even in airplanes. People thought he was crazy. But that didn’t discourage Dan. He got involved with other anti-tobacco advocacy groups across Canada and lobbied whenever and wherever.

“I remember a story of a lady who worked in an Edmonton fast food restaurant and had died of lung disease. She had never smoked, but everyone around her did,” says Dan. “After hearing that I did more research, and discovered things like how debilitating second-hand smoke can be to pregnant women and children. I just had to do something.”

In 1989, Dan was instrumental in getting Salmon Arms’ first bylaw on smoking restrictions passed. And in the years that followed, he advocated for more smoke-free spaces and helped form Salmon Arm’s Coalition for Health – a multi-disciplinary committee of community members and health professionals dedicated to reducing harm from second-hand smoke. Today Dan remains as committed as ever. His current focus is the promotion of a Smoke-Free Parks and Beaches bylaw.

“Most important to me,” says Dan, “is the impact on children. We must stop exposing children to second-hand smoke, wherever they are, including parks and beaches.”

The TRU Story


Front row, left to right: Stephanie Drysdale (RT student), Chelsea Corsi (TRU Wellness Coordinator), MaryAnne Waters (Interior Health Authority), Janine Chan (RT Faculty), and Laura Reid ( student). Back row, left to right: (students) Josh Tubajon, Sean McAllister, and Andrew Dieroft.

Located in Kamloops, BC, TRU services 25,000 full-time, part-time, online and international students.

In 2004, the university established its first Wellness Centre and implemented a policy prohibiting tobacco sales on campus, banning smoking in university vehicles and extending the provincial ban on smoking within three metres of exits and entryways to 7.6 metres. Eight years on, TRU has proven itself a true innovator on tobacco use issues.

“We have to credit our students who just keep coming up with great ideas,” says Chelsea Corsi, TRU Wellness Coordinator. “For example, two years ago they implemented annual ‘butt’ clean-up days, helping create a visual connection between the mess tobacco butts create while showing students how much of their money has gone up in smoke.”

Each January, TRU conducts its ‘Great Canadian Smoke-out,’ running quit contests with cash prizes in addition
to regular quit smoking support groups and information kiosks across campus. These campaigns are often targeted to populations with higher smoking rates – like international and trades students.

TRU has partnered with different faculties such as Respiratory Therapy, Nursing and Social Work to use campaigns as learning and mentoring opportunities for students. When the Respiratory Therapy students created quit smoking materials as a project, they were so successful that tobacco training became part of the mandatory school curriculum.

“The cross-pollination of ideas between faculty and students is powerful,” says Janine Chan, a member of TRU’s Respiratory Therapy Faculty. “Not only did the students realize how this knowledge could have an impact in their future workplaces, but their efforts led to changes in our programming. In the past, Respiratory Therapy students were not trained on smoking cessation practices, now it’s mandatory curriculum.”

TRU’s hard work has proved to be well worth the effort, bringing success to those who are trying to kick the smoking habit.

“It’s rewarding work and we’ve done a lot to be proud of,” Chelsea says. “I’ll never forget this mature student, a woman who had smoked for 30 years. She sought me out, just to say thank you. With our help and encouragement she’d finally succeeded in quitting for good.”

Leonard Ward's story

2013 Champion for Tobacco-Free Living Award Winner




Leonard Ward

An elder with the Stellat'en First Nation in Fraser Lake (near Prince George), Leonard is sought out for the work he does in taking care of the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing of people. His knowledge as a spiritual healer, as well as his personal experience with tobacco addiction, make him a trusted and respected resource for BC’s aboriginal community, which has disproportionately high smoking rates.

“There are many stories which describe how we use tobacco for spiritual purposes and many forewarn us of the illness and suffering that will happen if we misuse it,” says Leonard. “I used to smoke and misuse tobacco, so I speak from a place of understanding when I share these stories.”

Leonard learned from the Elders in his family and other Elders in various parts of the country. He uses this lifelong knowledge in traditional counselling and methods of healing. He often works with people using a combination of herbs, ceremony and prayer, and has worked as a Drug and Alcohol Counsellor and Community Developer for years.

According to non-aboriginal colleagues who collaborated with Leonard on BC’s Aboriginal Tobacco Control Strategy, Leonard possesses an innate wisdom, humility and graciousness. Well known for facilitating workshops, organizing vision quests and conducting ceremonies as requested by individuals or organizations, Leonard imparts his wisdom not only within BC aboriginal communities but helps build cross-cultural understanding between aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples.

“Our approach is a holistic one. We treat the whole person, not just their smoking addiction. We try to help them become proud of who they are and where they come from,” says Leonard. “To become healthier one must learn to respect oneself, one’s environment and one’s culture– to care for one’s personal and community health as a whole.”



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