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Journey for a Tobacco-Free World

Errol Povah Journey for a Tobacco Free World

Errol Povah Running for a Tobacco Free World

After thinking about it for a number of years — and literally dreaming about it within 3 weeks of my last day of work, after 30 years at B.C. Ferries (I retired as a Deckhand/Second Officer) — the Journey for a Tobacco-Free World (JTFW) kicked off from Mile Zero in Victoria on May 31, 2010; not coincidentally, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 23rd annual World No Tobacco Day.  One hundred and forty-four marathons later (with the exception of a couple of weeks [one in hospital, the other travelling to and from a concert], I did a marathon a day, 6 days a week for 6 months), I arrived at my final destination:  New York City, via Montreal.

Before you start wondering what I’ve been smoking, claiming to have done a marathon a day, 6 days a week for 6 months, please let me clarify:  I certainly didn’t run all those marathons; I walked the vast majority of the 42 kilometres per day, running a little bit (most often, depending on the condition of my blisters).  I was on the road a minimum of 8 or 9 hours a day.

It was, by far, the most incredible experience of my life…full of ups and downs of both the emotional and physical variety (the Malahat was good practice for the Rockies!).

I experienced every kind of wild weather imaginable; rain (including torrential downpours), wind (including a couple of tornado warnings), thunder, lightning, 40 degree heat through the prairies (including the humidity, aka “the sweat factor”) and sub-zero temps in North/Western Ontario and, a couple months later, in New York state, as well as other states (as I made my way home).  Bear in mind, of course, that, with the exception of the first month of the JTFW (when my brother and my niece ‘escorted’ me, for 2 weeks each), I was travelling alone…and my Dodge Caravan mini-van was my home!

“So, what was the point?  Why did you do it?”, you might be wondering.  So glad you asked!

I’ve been an anti-tobacco activist for well over 30 years.  Despite a great deal of wonderful progress (in terms of smoking bans, tobacco advertising and sponsorship bans, etc.), there is, clearly, a very long way to go.  Just one example:  We are now 47 years after the first U.S. Surgeon-General’s Report on the Hazards of Smoking.  One would think that the death toll from tobacco would be dropping; perhaps even approaching zero!  On the contrary:  It’s rising, fast!  In fact the WHO is predicting that the current annual global death toll from tobacco — 5.4 million — will DOUBLE with the next 10 years, primarily as a result of what the tobacco industry is doing in developing nations (most notably, in Africa).

Making it abundantly clear for the last 5 years — and especially during the JTFW (I always wore a t-shirt that said “TOBACCOFREEWORLD.CA” big and bold on the front…a great conversation starter) — that our (Airspace Action on Smoking and Health’s) ultimate goal is to see the global tobacco industry out of business, the overwhelming public support for that idea shocked even me.  The support among the hundreds of complete strangers I met along my trek (in grocery stores, recreation centres, laundromats, libraries, gas stations, restaurants, movie theatres, etc.), who gave me an opportunity to thoroughly explain my position, was 100%!

Many family, friends and colleagues suggested a Home-Coming Run (HCR)…and I figured, “Why not?”  And so it is that, on Jan 11 and 12, the JTFW HCR will go from just west of Mission, B.C. to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal (a total of 93 km); Jan 13, it will go from Swartz Bay to the B.C. Legislature (30 km).  All told, it’s 123 km; symbolically, 1 kilometre for each Canadian tobacco victim, EACH AND EVERY DAY.  Even more tragically, 123 Canadian kids have to start smoking — EACH AND EVERY DAY — just for the tobacco industry to ‘break even’.

And what does any of this have to do with Accent Inns?  Again, so glad you asked.

After hearing about the JTFW and our urgent need for some nice accommodations, I received a call from the Corporate office of Accent Inns. They listened to my story and kindly offered me a room or two at their Victoria hotel.  Needless to say, I am very gratefully accepted.

Errol Povah runs through Montreal

Errol Povah runs through Montreal

In closing, I urge anyone and everyone who has been touched by tobacco to join us for any or all of the JTFW’s 3-day Home-Coming Run/Celebration.  More details can be found at .  Those of you who live anywhere on southern Vancouver Island are encouraged to meet us at the Swartz Bay ferry terminal (foot passenger pick up/drop off area) on the morning of Thursday, January 13.  The ‘run’ — mostly a brisk walk — will commence at 9:00 a.m….and is tentatively scheduled to arrive at the provincial legislature (in downtown Victoria) at 2:00 p.m.  If 5 hours is a bit much for you, feel free to join us anywhere along the route.

Thank you, in advance…and again, a big “THANK YOU!” to all the gang at Accent Inns.

Errol Povah
Journey to Tobacco Free World