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A Conversation
on Prevention

Advocacy, Cosmetic Pesticides, My One Thing, Provincial Election, Tanning, Tobacco, Youth, May 24th, 2013

If you had an opportunity to stop cancer in its tracks, would you?

On May 11, 2013, the Canadian Cancer Society brought together 75 young leaders across BC for our first ever Youth Forum on cancer prevention in Vancouver. The weekend was filled with good laughs, great ideas and inspirational conversations.

The Society – celebrating 75 years of fighting cancer – invited community-minded youth to take a stand against cancer, and they answered. The 75 young leaders between the ages of 19 and 25 participated in the day-long Forum to discuss what healthy communities look like and how to get involved. There were opportunities to learn, share and network to see a broader vision for global change.

Designed by youth, for youth, the Forum kicked off with a photo scavenger hunt featuring cancer prevention themes. Keynote speaker, Richard Loat, Founder of Five Hole for Food, challenged youth to chase their dreams and not let the fear of “no” get in their way.

Richard was one of several inspirational speakers that day. Ashleigh Wilson, a young cancer survivor, shared her story of cancer ‘thrivership’, Director of Vision and Goals from lululemon athletica, Chloe Gow-Jarrett taught goal-setting skills, and the Canadian Cancer Society’s own Vice President of Cancer Control, Cathy Adair, shared some insight on cancer prevention and progress over the last 75 years.

After some informative and motivating sessions on influencing public policy, tobacco control and indoor tanning, the energetic youth had a chance to exchange their ideas and set the wheels in motion for cancer prevention in their own communities.

We know that about half of all cancers can be prevented by living well, being aware and getting involved in public policy. Stopping cancer before it starts is an important part of realizing the Society’s vision of a world where nobody fears cancer – and youth are a vital part of that solution.

We know that these young leaders will be fantastic ambassadors for healthy change in their communities, setting the stage for the next 75 years of cancer prevention.

Check out more photos from the Youth Forum on our Facebook page.

Advocacy, Cosmetic Pesticides, Guest blogger, Provincial Election, Smoking, Tobacco, May 17th, 2013

New government brings new opportunities to work together on cancer prevention

On May 14th British Columbians went to the polls to elect a new government. Elections represent change with a promise of hope for a better tomorrow, much like the Canadian Cancer Society’s endless fight to create a healthier future for our province where no British Columbian fears cancer.  With the support of thousands of British Columbians and our amazing team of dedicated volunteers, the Society was able to speak-out loudly, raise our voices as one and help make cancer prevention an election issue. Read more

Advocacy, Cosmetic Pesticides, Guest blogger, Provincial Election, Smoking, Tobacco, May 10th, 2013

Cancer prevention works – time for a new health care paradigm

By Ted Bruce, past-president of the Public Health Association of British Columbia (PHABC), a voluntary, non-profit, non-government organization whose mission is to preserve and promote the public’s health. PHABC shares the Society’s concern for the need to increase investment in chronic disease prevention.

The cancer community has done a remarkable job of documenting the importance of prevention. They estimate that 50% of cancers are preventable and have an active campaign to encourage provincial government action on prevention. Learn more via the Canadian Cancer Society’s (BC & Yukon) Cancer Gameplan Election website.

Think about that number: 50%. Compare it to the 3% of health care we devote to public health preventive efforts.

The cancer community’s understanding and commitment to prevention is likely influenced by the remarkable story around tobacco reduction. A public health approach to tobacco reduction is a model that we can use to tackle a range of deadly and costly chronic diseases. But it comes at a price. The victories in the battle against smoking related diseases did not solely come from anti-smoking awareness and public education campaigns. In fact the amount of funding available for these types of campaigns is almost laughable compared to what industry spends marketing what we know are unhealthy products – a great deal of this marketing aimed a kids. Although we have seen prohibitions on advertising cigarettes in Canada, the food industry provides an example of the marketing battleground. The Ontario Healthy Kids Panel report No Time to Wait was unable to calculate the actual expenditure on food advertising aimed at children but they quote one study showing that “ four food ads per hour were shown during children’s peak television viewing times and six food ads per hour were shown during non-peak times. Approximately 83 per cent of those ads were for “non-core” foods and 24 per cent of food ads were for fast food restaurants.”[1]

The Prevention Institute, a non-profit organization in the US, quoting a Federal Trade Commission Report states that the fast food industry spends more than $5 million every day marketing unhealthy foods to children. A full fact sheet on marketing foods and beverages to children is available on their website.

The tobacco battle has shown us that effective prevention programming incorporates a variety of strategies including taxation to affect price, marketing regulations, enforcement and efforts to change the environment to deter consumption. The National Collaborating Centre on Healthy Public Policy has an informative interactive timeline that is worth a look to see the long and hard fought battle over tobacco.

It is most important to understand, however, that tobacco reduction efforts required human resources for leadership, advocacy, policy development,  program development and program delivery. And there are just not enough of these resources available in the public health system to do the job for the chronic disease epidemic we are facing.

Is the battle against smoking related disease and death over? Not by a long shot. Smoking rates may have come down but we know they can go lower. And sadly in some populations smoking rates are still at very high levels with estimates that some groups smoke at 2 to 3 times the overall rate. Learn more through Health Canada’s Canadian Tobacco Use Monitoring Survey.

We need to shift our thinking to support the cancer community’s prevention efforts. And we need to realize that cancer prevention is about more than tobacco. Chemicals in our environment, sedentary behaviour and poor diets are contributors to cancer. The time is overdue for a comprehensive prevention effort. Our political leaders need to have a vision for the future. Why is it good enough to prevent children being exposed to tobacco yet we tolerate an “in your face” obesity promoting environment for children. It is time to dream big and to put in place the human resources we need to realize that dream. We can all take a lesson from the efforts to prevent cancer. We need to shift to a new health and health care paradigm built on prevention.

[1] Kelly B, Halford JCG, Boyland E, Chapman K, Bautista-Castaño I, Berg C, et al. (2010). Television food advertising to children: A global perspective. Am J Public Health. 2010;100(9):1730-5

Click here to learn more about PHABC’s provincial election advocacy.

Authorized by the Canadian Cancer Society, BC & Yukon, registered sponsor under the Election Act, 604-872-4400.

Advocacy, Cosmetic Pesticides, Guest blogger, Provincial Election, Smoking, Tobacco, May 10th, 2013

Exercising your right to vote can reduce your risk of cancer

Many of us know that exercising to maintain a healthy body weight is one of the key ways we can reduce our risk of cancer. But did you ever consider that exercising your right to vote could reduce your risk of cancer? Read More

Advocacy, Cosmetic Pesticides, Guest blogger, Provincial Election, May 7th, 2013

How Growing Kale is My Way of Embracing Good Health

Carol Pope is the editor of a dozen gardening books including the national bestsellers The Book of Kale and The Zero-Mile Diet. Previously the editor of Gardenwise magazine for a decade, she now blogs regularly about organic gardening and is currently working on The Book of Kale 2 with Sharon Hanna. Follow Carol on Twitter at @carolapope


Why gardening is an important excercise for me

I’ve never been much of one for exercise without purpose. Why slog it out on a treadmill when I can run back and forth from a pile of newly acquired manure to my raised beds? Both endeavours may keep me fit, but the latter also provides me with a garden. And, better yet, a garden brimming with healthy food that will also add to my wellbeing.  The same strategy holds true with upper-body workouts. Why pump weights when I can shovel soil? Why do bicep curls or tricep pushdowns when I can pull weeds, rake leaves, churn compost or roll rocks around? My garden drill keeps my body working and fit, something that I know helps to keep away cancer and other diseases. It also keeps my spirits up and my heart hopeful. In this turbulent world there is nothing that soothes me more than the gentle sway of life in the garden, than getting my hands into the dirt.

Still, even with directing my personal exercise regime toward the improvement of my kitchen garden, I have to be realistic about what I grow. There is only so much time and I want my efforts to equal a food garden that truly makes a difference in my life. I want to eat better because of what I sow and nourish those that I love.  I’ve tried growing just about every edible you can think of – from asparagus to zucchini – and while all are worthwhile, there’s nothing more generous and responsive in the garden than one hearty garden stalwart – kale.

 In a small backyard space, we have five raised beds brimming with kale – many types, in fact, so that it’s quite a pretty effect of red rippled leaves, green curly leaves and the lovely prolific ‘Red Russian’ that grows like a weed and self-seeds onto every barren inch of soil (for which I am always grateful). Unlike some lesser greens, kale doesn’t need to be continually replanted. Rather than pull the plant for dinner, we simply snip leaves and some of the succulent stems, buds and even flowers right into the salad bowl, never taking more than a third of the plant. It will grow back in a flash. In the kitchen, a token rinse is all that’s needed because kale grows so rapidly that it is always shiny-clean when you cut it.

A cinch to grow and sow

Growing kale is a snap. It’s a lover of cool weather, something we have lots of in B.C. Typically, I start some in seed trays in February or March for the spring/summer garden. And I also plant some in June or July. The summer crop reaches a good height by fall and then slows down growth-wise but continues to hang in there all through the winter. With a generous group of plants, you can basically pick the leaves all through the winter until the stems are almost naked. We always leave a few bits of green so that the plant isn’t completely stripped. Come February or March, depending on the weather, the stark-looking stems will burst forth with growth – with leaves curling outward from bottom to top – and there’s plenty to pick again, just as you were worrying that you might run out.

Pesticides for bug control?

I’ve had people ask me what I do to keep insects away – do I use pesticides near my food or do I go organic? To sum it up in a few words, I can’t imagine using pesticides anywhere in my garden ever. Why would I invite a cancer risk into my garden? The whole point of a garden for me is that it enhances my health, the health of my children and all those I love who tread through my yard, as well as the health of the birds and bees that I work to welcome to my outdoor space.

It’s right here, outside my door – a no-pesticide zone that I protect from chemical violations. All wildlife is welcome here. All human life is welcome here. If the cabbage butterfly larva shows up on my kale, I remind my kids that if the insects are eating it, that means it’s good food for us too. If we poison our garden so that insects can’t survive, what does that say about what it might do to us?  The same goes for our little bit of lawn, our flowers, our trees, much of which winds up in our compost heap and is reshuffled into the circle of life that is my garden. I might pluck a slug out of my parsley patch or plant some lovage to serve as a nursery for aphid-eating ladybug larva – in other words, help Nature keep my garden strong – but it is and always will be a poison-free place. Otherwise, I have to ask: what’s the point?

Show your support for a cosmetic pesticide-free BC. Click here to email all party leaders!


Authorized by the Canadian Cancer Society, BC & Yukon, registered sponsor under the Election Act, 604-872-4400.

Advocacy, Cosmetic Pesticides, Guest blogger, Provincial Election, May 3rd, 2013

Prevent pets from licking pesticide off their paws this spring

Today, the BC SPCA tells us why they support strong cosmetic pesticide legislation. BC SPCA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to protecting and enhancing the quality of life for domestic, farm and wide animals in British Columbia.

Each spring, animals face an unnecessary danger: cosmetic pesticides.

These chemicals are used to control unwanted weeds and make lawns and gardens more attractive, but it’s increasingly clear that these benefits come at the expense of human and animal health.

The World Health Organization and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have published studies linking pesticide exposure to certain types of cancer.

More than 39 B.C. municipalities — including Vancouver, Surrey, Richmond, Maple Ridge, Whistler and Kelowna — have adopted bylaws to ban cosmetic pesticide use due to the risks to humans, pets and wildlife. However, without province-wide legislation to prevent the sale of cosmetic pesticides it’s likely that consumers will continue to buy them.

The BC SPCA has joined the Canadian Cancer Society in calling for a ban on the use and sale of cosmetic pesticides in B.C. The ban would encompass private lawns as well as sports fields, parks and playgrounds.

“Seven other provinces have already banned the sale of cosmetic pesticides and we believe B.C. should follow suit,” says Geoff Urton, manager of stakeholder relations for the BC SPCA. “The chemicals used in these products are highly toxic and present real risks to the health and well-being of our pets and wildlife species.”

Pets, like children, are at greater risk from pesticide exposure because they are closer to the ground. Worse, though, is the fact that animals can easily consume the chemicals used in products that kill weeds.

“If your dog or cat steps on grass that’s been treated with pesticides, the next time he licks his paws he is ingesting poison,” says Geoff Urton. “Or imagine a mother robin pulling a pesticide-covered worm from your lawn and feeding it to her newly-hatched offspring.”

It’s estimated that 25 per cent of B.C. households with a lawn or garden still use cosmetic pesticides. Until a pesticide ban is in place, take precautions to protect the animals in your care:

- Pay attention to “keep off grass” signs and avoid areas where pesticides may have been used.

- Wash and wipe your pets’ paws when they come in from outside.

- Pay particular attention to between the pads where substances can become trapped in fur, and the undersides of claws, where chemicals can also become embedded.

End the use of cosmetic pesticides in B.C. Visit the Canadian Cancer Society website to email B.C.’s party leaders in support of a ban.

Advocacy, Cosmetic Pesticides, Guest blogger, Provincial Election, Survivor, April 20th, 2013

Top 5 Reasons to Ban Cosmetic Pesticides

by Nazanine Parent, cancer survivor and Canadian Cancer Society BC and Yukon volunteer

1)     No one should have to worry about children playing in the grass

Children are at greater risk from pesticide exposure than adults because they play closer to the ground and their bodies are still developing. Cosmetic pesticides can be inhaled, absorbed through the skin, or be swallowed when children place contaminated objects and their hands and in their mouths. Don’t forget about our pets too!

2)     It’s a public health issue

There is a growing body of evidence linking pesticide exposure with certain types of cancer, including childhood leukemia and childhood brain cancer.

3)     They’re not necessary

Cosmetic pesticides are used to make lawns, gardens and other green spaces look better. We call them ‘cosmetic’ because some think they improve the appearance of lawns and gardens. Regardless, they are not needed for health and safety. Safe and effective alternatives exist.  

4)     Pesticides don’t stop at the garden gate

Your family can be indirectly exposed even if you do not use cosmetic pesticides. If sprayed, cosmetic pesticides can drift through the environment and mix with the air, soil, or water. Pesticides may even collect on plants & objects we don’t intend to spray.

5)     British Columbians support a ban  

- 40 municipalities have cosmetic pesticide restrictions

- More than 70% of British Columbians support provincial legislation to restrict pesticide use

- 76% of British Columbians are aware of the link between pesticides & cancer


We’re asking all political parties to support banning the use, sale and retail display of cosmetic pesticides used on public and private lands – something only the provincial government has the power to do.

How can you help? Spread the word, share this blog post with your friends, email BC’s party leaders and find out what they’re doing to help ban the use and sale of cosmetic pesticides.

Authorized by the Canadian Cancer Society, BC & Yukon, registered sponsor under the Election Act, 604-872-4400.

Advocacy, Guest blogger, Provincial Election, April 15th, 2013

An Ounce of Prevention

The Public Health Association of BC (PHABC) is a voluntary, non-profit, non-government organization whose mission is to preserve and promote the public’s health. PHABC shares the Society’s concern for the need to increase investment in chronic disease prevention. Click here to learn more about PHABC’s provincial election advocacy.

Our province faces increasing costs to our health system and society, largely due to preventable illnesses like heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

8% of British Columbians have been diagnosed as having one or more chronic diseases. Chronic diseases are forecasted to increase by 58% in BC over the next 25 years.

An additional $1.5 billion of funding will be required over the next three years to keep pace with the increase in demand for health services.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Decades of research have shown that preventive health care, or health interventions that take place before the onset of disease, can:

- reduce the rate of people developing chronic diseases (so people can live longer, healthier lives); and

- help control health care costs.

Opportunities for Action

The 6% Solution
We need a significant increase in prevention health care in the health care system.

Current funding for public and population health approaches only make up 3% of the $17 billion provincial health care budget. We need to double this number to 6%.

What we’re doing right now is not good enough. We need more preventative health programs to ensure the sustainability of our health care system, and protect the health of our future generations.

We need you to raise your voice. Join us and advocate for more preventative health programming. Here’s how.

Advocacy, Guest blogger, Provincial Election, Smoking, Tobacco, April 10th, 2013

Let’s keep the momentum going

by Nazanine Parent, cancer survivor and Canadian Cancer Society BC and Yukon volunteer

It’s great to see the BC Government has taken steps to tackle tobacco. The BC Smoking Cessation Program offers free 24/7 help to those who want to quit through and Quit Now by Phone.

This is a great start to helping an estimated 70% of smokers who wish to quit – not to mention that it reduces second-hand smoke for those who don’t smoke. Let’s keep the momentum going by making sure we have smoke-free outdoor places across the province.

Why are we asking for smoke-free outdoor places?

1. Tobacco is a major health issue that needs the attention of our provincial leaders. In Canada, tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death – 37,000 Canadians die every year of tobacco related illnesses – including cancer.

2. Second-hand smoke is extremely toxic. It contains more than 4,000 chemicals including at least 50 known cancer-causing substances.  In an outdoor setting, second-hand smoke is a hazard. In fact, being within a few feet of a smoker outdoors may expose you to air pollution levels comparable to homes and bars that allow smoking.

Banning smoking in parks, playgrounds, patios and beaches is a sound public health policy that can increase motivation for smokers to quit or cut back, decrease unhealthy role modelling for children and youth and de-normalize smoking behaviour. What a great way for the BC Government to invest in cancer prevention.

All British Columbians should be protected from second-hand smoke. Strong province-wide legislation would give British Columbians access to smoke-free outdoor public places, especially the parks and playgrounds where children play.

Do your part by living smoke-free and avoiding second-hand smoke. Let’s enjoy our beaches, parks, patios, playgrounds, without the worry of second-hand smoke. With your help we can enjoy healthier communities.

Ready to get started? Contact your MLA today and voice your concerns. Find out what they’re doing to help ban smoking in public places. Learn more at

If you’re ready to quit smoking, download our One Step at a Time guide.

For more quit smoking resources, visit

Advocacy, Cosmetic Pesticides, Guest blogger, Provincial Election, April 3rd, 2013

Faster than the speed of light

Carol Pope is the editor of a dozen gardening books including the national bestsellers The Book of Kale and The Zero-Mile Diet. Also editor of Gardenwise magazine for a decade, she writes regularly about organic gardening in BC. Carol offers us simple and easy tips for pesticide-free gardening.

All creatures love snacking in the garden (without fear of being poisoned by pesticides)

Faster than the speed of light – or so it seems – weeds spread through my garden. In my own backyard I combat these villians on a daily basis – thistle, lady’s thumb, oxeye daisy and more, ripping out these roughshodders by the roots.

This keeps my compost bin full and my fitness levels up. I’ve adapted a “step, pull, step, pull” strategy, with pruners in my back pocket to help slow down those that are too robust to be wrestled from the ground. Meanwhile, the weeds decompose into a nourishing food for my edible garden. I add organic grass clippings to the compost, or even use them as a weed-suppressing mulch around my berry bushes, along with shredded autumn leaves. Lawn clippings are a fantastic resource and can be a big part of the circle of life within a garden – that is, of course, assuming they are organic and not drenched in poisonous pesticides. Here are a few more tips:

 Shallow watering sources and herb gardens attract the “good” bugs that eat the “bad” bugs

If you think you need to spray a porous driveway or walkway to keep weeds down, just spritz a titch of vinegar on a sunny day – safe for kids, dogs and you!

For small hard-to-pull weeds, particularly those in gravel walkways or driveways, there is a wonderful alternative to dumping harmful pesticides, chemical herbicides and overkill cleaning products into our precious earth — vinegar! Did you know that it is an effective earth-friendly herbicide?

Having used white distilled vinegar as an herbicide with great success, I am happy to have discovered this wonderful collection of tips on using vinegar in the garden.

 1. Kill weeds simply by pouring it full strength over them. This works especially well in crevices and cracks of walkways and driveways.

2. Discourage cats from getting into the kids’ sandbox by pouring vinegar into the sand.

3. Stop ants from congregating by pouring white distilled vinegar on the area.

4. Neutralize garden lime by adding white distilled vinegar to the area.

5. Kill slugs by spraying them with a mixture of 1 part water and 1 part white distilled vinegar.

6. To catch moths use a mixture of 2 parts white distilled vinegar and 1 part molasses. Place mixture in tin can and hang in a tree.

7. Keep rabbits from eating your plants. Put cotton balls soaked in white distilled vinegar in a 35mm film container. Poke a hole in the top and place in the garden.

8. Clean out stains and white mineral crusts in clay, glazed and plastic pots by soaking them for an hour or longer in a sink filled with a solution of half water and half vinegar.

9. Get rid of rust on tools and spigots by soaking the items overnight or for several days in undiluted vinegar.

10. Increase the acidity of soil by adding vinegar to your watering can.

11. Give acid-loving plants like azaleas, rhododendrons, hydrangeas and gardenias a little help by watering them with a white distilled vinegar solution now and again. A cup of white distilled vinegar to a gallon of tap water is a good mixture.

Cosmetic pesticides aren’t necessary to keep my garden growing well – in fact, I have been gardening for decades and never used them. Gardens need to be safe for all creatures – for our children, pets, birds, bees and all beneficial insects – and they also should be safe for the growing of food. I’m calling on all parties in British Columbia to support strong cosmetic pesticide legislation. You can too by sending an email to all parties. Let’s keep our lawns and gardens healthy and cosmetic pesticide free.

For more pesticide-free gardening tips visit Carol Pope’s blog or follow her on Twitter @carolapope. The views are Ms. Pope’s and do not necessarily represent the views of the Society.

Advocacy, Cosmetic Pesticides, Guest blogger, Provincial Election, Smoking, Tobacco, March 26th, 2013

Email your MLA Day

by Susan Zhang, Canadian Cancer Society BC and Yukon volunteer and SFU student


It’s Email Your MLA Day and we’re asking everyone to take a moment to let their MLA know about the issues that are important to them. It’s a reason, an extra push, to encourage everyone to get involved in a quick, easy and meaningful way.

Cancer prevention is our election priority and it’s time to get our MLAs thinking about it.

You can make a great impact on your community. Email your MLA to do your part in supporting outdoor smoke-free places and strong cosmetic pesticide legislation, two solid steps towards cancer prevention.

Why now? Well, this week is our 75th anniversary and we’ll be celebrating our fight against cancer. What better way to celebrate than to continue the fight by advocating to your MLA about cancer prevention. Reach out and get involved this election season. Add your voice to the fight.

It’s easy to find your MLA and his or her contact information, just click here!

Click here to send a message to all parties in support of the Society’s election priorities.

Advocacy, Guest blogger, Provincial Election, Smoking, Tobacco, March 12th, 2013

Catching Big Smoke-Free Air in Whistler

by Susan Zhang, Canadian Cancer Society BC and Yukon volunteer and SFU student.

There’s a lot to love about Whistler – amazing skiing and snowboarding, a beautiful village, scenic views, and the fact that many of Whistler’s outdoor public areas are smoke-free.


Whistler is a model community because of its smoking regulations that prohibit smoking near playgrounds, transit shelters and school property. For children and youth, this decreases unhealthy role modelling and de-normalizes smoking behaviour. As most smokers start before the age of 18, this can help to lower the number of people who pick up the habit in the future.

The bylaw, adopted in 2008, also prohibits smoking near sporting events, playing fields and other recreational areas. Patios of restaurants and bars are included in this ban too. Providing smoke-free outdoor public places decreases exposure to harmful second-hand smoke for everyone in the community. For Whistler businesses, to date there is no evidence of long-term negative impact on the tourism sector, including restaurants, bars and entertainment venues.

So what about the rest of British Columbia? Currently, the province stipulates that there must be a smoke-free “buffer zone” of three metres around doorways, open windows, and air intakes. Otherwise, rules vary from municipality to municipality, as each is free to set their own bylaws.

Following the example of Whistler, the Canadian Cancer Society is asking for all political parties to support legislation for smoke-free outdoor public places across BC. This election, we hope to get the word out about the importance of making restaurant and bar patios, parks, beaches and playgrounds smoke-free places. Help us advocate for healthier communities – email BC’s party leaders to show your support.

Advocacy, Cosmetic Pesticides, Provincial Election, Smoking, Tobacco, February 27th, 2013

Cancer Prevention: Our Focus this Election

The election buzz is growing with less than three months before British Columbians go to the polls.   

One issue affects nearly every voter in British Columbia— and that’s cancer. We’ve all been touched in one way or another. Two in five Canadians are diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime and that’s why it makes sense to bring attention to policies that would help to ease the burden of cancer in our lives. 

At the Canadian Cancer Society BC and Yukon we believe that cancer prevention should be an election priority for BC’s political parties. About half of all cancers can be prevented and if we can start to chip away at this big number, then we can make BC an even better and healthier place to be. 

One way to prevent cancer is to encourage people to change their behavior through education. We’ve all seen and heard healthy reminders to get regular exercise, eat plenty of veggies and steer clear of tobacco. Just changing one thing in a person’s lifestyle can have an important impact on his or her health. At the Society we recognize that we can take cancer prevention a step further through healthy policies that reduce the risk of cancer for an entire population. What a big impact that can make! 


Megan Sidhu is a Canadian Cancer Society volunteer from Surrey. This provincial election she is advocating for an investment in cancer prevention.  

Leading up to election day, we’ll be asking all political parties to support an investment in cancer prevention by reducing our exposure to harmful substances that are linked to cancer, namely cosmetic pesticides and second-hand smoke. 

We’d like to see strong cosmetic pesticide legislation that bans the use of pesticides for non-essential purposes, like the beautification of lawns and gardens. We know that we can still keep lawns and gardens beautiful using safe alternatives so it only makes sense to reduce our exposure to pesticides where we know they aren’t necessary.

Smoking regulations have come a long way in BC and we can keep the momentum going by advocating for smoke-free outdoor places which would allow everyone, especially children, to enjoy outdoor public places (patios, parks, beaces, and playgrounds) without facing the risks of second-hand smoke. It can also go a long way to help smokers quit and to provide fewer opportunities for would-be smokers to pick up the habit.  

This provincial election is a chance for us to show the BC Government that cancer touches us all and that we can do more to stop cancer before it starts. 

Leading up to May 14, the Society and our many volunteers, including Megan, will reach out to our communities and political parties, encouraging everyone to make cancer prevention an issue. Visit to get involved and to learn more about our provincial election priorities.

Advocacy, National Non-Smoking Week, Provincial Election, Smoking, Tobacco, February 18th, 2013

A Surrey Citizen’s Call to Action: Continue to support outdoor smoke-free places

For this year’s National Non-Smoking Week, the Canadian Cancer Society, B.C. and Yukon, called on the B.C. government and all political parties to support smoke-free public outdoor spaces, including parks, beaches, playgrounds and patios of restaurants, pubs and bars.

Tobacco use remains the largest single preventable cause of death and disease in BC, killing more than 6,000 British Columbians each year and second-hand smoke is linked to the death of up to 140 British Columbians each year. These are staggering numbers and have moved many British Columbians to action.

Amber Bolu, a Society volunteer and resident of Surrey, BC, wrote to the Surrey News Leader in a letter entitled Continue toward a smoke-free outdoors:

 “As a resident of Surrey, a city which has surpassed the province’s smoking restrictions, residents should know firsthand the benefits and the importance of smoke-free outdoor public spaces.”

During National Non-Smoking Week, diverse views were shared. Some feel that outdoor smoke-free provincial regulations would be going too far; however, the vast majority view smoking regulations as an important measure in the protection of public health and a means to eliminate involuntary exposure to second-hand smoke, a known carcinogen.

An important debate has been raised and moving beyond National Non-Smoking Week, Amber encourages British Columbian’s to continue to keep this issue top of mind:

 “National Non-Smoking Week has passed, but we should continue to keep the importance of smoke-free outdoor spaces in our minds. As the City of Surrey is a leader in smoking restrictions, my hope is to inspire residents to encourage their MLA, and the B.C. health minister, to follow the lead of 30 B.C. municipalities and four other provinces, and keep B.C. beautiful and smoke-free.”

This year’s provincial election is an opportunity for British Columbians to continue to show their support for smoke-free outdoor places. To find out more, visit  


Advocacy, Provincial Election, Smoking, Tobacco, February 13th, 2013

Break up on Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is about taking time for your special relationships. But maybe it’s also time to re-evaluate the toxic relationships in our lives.  

Dear cigarette,

It’s not me, it’s you. Let’s be honest with ourselves, this relationship is a dead end.

Things started off well, like most relationships do. I was young and naïve and you seemed so cool and sophisticated. You made me feel special. I saw you whenever I could. I spent my money on you. I was loyal to you — even if it meant uncomfortable conversations with my doctor.

Slowly but surely, I started to feel your effects. You made me feel exhausted. Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about– we have an unhealthy relationship.

It’s time to put myself first. It might not be easy at first. I might catch myself in silent moments hoping for your companionship, but I am sure that I’ll be better off without you. 

Let’s call it quits. I’ll be better off without you.


This spring, the Society is asking all political parties in BC to break up with second-hand smoke in outdoor public places  (patios, parks, beaches and playgrounds). Let your MLA know that you support smoke-free outdoor places that everyone, especially children, can enjoy without being exposed to harmful second-hand smoke. To find out more, visit:

Photo: Rose

Advocacy, Guest blogger, National Non-Smoking Week, Tobacco, January 24th, 2013

Canadian Cancer Society calls on BC government to make patios parks and playgrounds smoke-free

by Kathryn Seely, Canadian Cancer Society BC and Yukon, Public Issues Director

Every year when National Non-Smoking Week comes around in January, our workforce, and the health promotion team in particular, wonder how much longer it will be before we live in a smoke-free public environment.

We can, of course, live, work and play smoke-free in our homes and yards, and even in our vehicles, but not our communities. Until that time, we look to government to protect the public and employees from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke.

The dangers of exposure to second-hand smoke have been well-documented with scientific evidence and there are few, if any, arguments against it. The toll in suffering and death is staggering.

Tobacco use remains the largest single preventable cause of death and disease in BC, killing more than 6,000 British Columbians each year. Second-hand smoke is linked to the death of up to 140 British Columbians each year.

There has been progress, led in part by theCanadian Cancer Society, but our work is not finished by any means. This month, the Canadian Cancer Society, BC andYukon, is reminding our MLAs that we need regulations to ban smoking on all outdoor patios of bars and restaurants, as well as on beaches, and in parks and playgrounds.

And while, BC has the lowest percentage of smokers (14%), the incidence and death rates are consistent with the rest of Canada. We are very concerned about the numbers of women and youth who are smoking.

Eliminating smoking in public places creates a healthy environment for youth, who might be less likely to take up the habit, and encourages their parents to quit or cut back.

This year, during National Non-Smoking Week, please encourage your MLA, or the BC Health Minister, to follow the lead of 30 BC municipalities and four other provinces, and keep BC beautiful and smoke-free.

To read more of Kathryn’s blog posts, visit

Advocacy, Cosmetic Pesticides, Guest blogger, My One Thing, Provincial Election, Women's Health, October 4th, 2012

Councillor Selina Robinson’s “One Thing”

Guest Blog by Selina Robinson, City Councillor, Coquitlam B.C.

Selina Robinson is a City Councillor for Coquitlam, B.C. and an active member of her community. When she is not engaged in council business, she runs a small private counselling practice, works with community groups to plan and organize a variety of community events and enjoys staying active. She is well-known for your commitment towards health and creating healthy environments. We asked Selina to share her “one thing” with us.  

I know the realities of hearing the words “you have cancer”.  As a survivor I know the fear, the worry and the anxiety that comes with every surgery, treatment and CT scan.  Many survivors can point to the possible causes of their cancer: smoking, poor diet, sun exposure. For some of us, the cancer just appeared. In my case the cancer was not due to smoking, sun exposure, diet or lack of exercise. It just happened. The physicians and researchers don’t have all the answers for what caused my particular cancer … a genetic mutation is all they can say.  But they don’t know what causes this particular mutation.

Given that we don’t always know what causes some cancers (including my own) – I think it’s important that we don’t expose ourselves to unnecessary risks, like exposing ourselves to cosmetic pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. 

We have enough evidence to know that pesticide exposure may cause some cancers. Given that we use these potentially harmful products for cosmetic purposes, there is no sufficient reason to expose ourselves, our neighbours and our children to their toxic effects. 

My “one thing” has been to champion a cosmetic pesticide ban in Coquitlam where I am a City Councillor. I started the process shortly after getting elected in 2008 and successfully implemented a local ban in 2011. It took three years of engaging the community and educating my colleagues on Council in order to bring the cosmetic pesticide ban to fruition. But the work is not yet done.  A province-wide ban on the sale of these products will achieve better compliance and better results. I plan to keep at it, but I wonder if that will make it two things?