Ottawa woman the new face of anti-tobacco ads

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Non-smoking former waitress's story latest phase of Health Canada blitz

Tom Spears, The Ottawa Citizen, Friday, October 11, 2002

"My doctors told me I had a smoker's tumour, and therefore I'm dying," Heather Crowe tells the camera in a commercial you'll see soon.

"I never smoked a day in my life," the 57-year-old Ottawa waitress says.

"But the air was blue where I worked ..."

Ms. Crowe worked for 40 years as a waitress, the past 15 of them at Moe's World Famous Newport Restaurant in Westboro.

Her face was on the front of yesterday's Citizen. Now it's going to be seen across Canada as the focus of Health Canada's campaign against second-hand smoke in the workplace.

Anti-smoking workers hope the 30 seconds of stark words and Heather Crowe's story will jolt people into understanding what smoke does to those who breathe it, even if they aren't smokers themselves. Just in case, she spells it out after she's finished speaking: "Some tobacco companies say second-hand smoke bothers people. Health Canada says it kills."

The second part of Health Canada's three-phase campaign against second-hand smoke begins next Monday on French and English TV stations across the country. It will be packaged with evening news and public affairs shows, as the department figures these viewers are the kind most interested in health-policy issues, and are the ones most likely to phone their MPs and MPPs or write a letter to the newspaper.

"In the first part of November we'll have transit ads in 11 cities. Ottawa is one of them," said Karen Dufton of Health Canada, one of the campaign's organizers.

These also show Heather Crowe, with the message: "Second-hand smoke can kill you. Just ask Heather."

The campaign lasts two months.

"It is a challenging one, but I think if you look at the results there's great cause for encouragement," Ms. Dufton says. "Right now in Canada there are more former smokers than current smokers. Prevalence rates (of smoking) continue to drop, ... so we are making progress."

Part one of the campaign focused on the damage that smoking at home does to family members of a smoker. A third part will be aimed at teenagers.

Part one, last March, worked pretty well, Health Canada says. While it can't count the number of smokers who quit because of it, they found that 54 per cent of people they interviewed after the campaign stopped remembered the message. And about one-third of those said they had discussed the topic with other people after seeing the ads.

"One of the things that's surprising is, if you come from Ottawa and think there's very little smoking in most public places, there are still 11 million workers in Canada who don't have full protection" against smoke at work, she said.

Eight million of these work in areas where smoking is allowed in restricted areas of the workplace only. But three million work in jurisdictions where anyone can smoke, she said.

The ad "shows a real human being who talks about how she's dying because of second-hand smoke in the workplace," she said.

"I don't think there's the same level of awareness with second-hand smoke. Most people tend to think it's the smoker who has the risks."

© Copyright 2002 The Ottawa Citizen

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