News Local

Vancouver butts out of big tobacco's bins

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver

A tobacco giant supplied funding for cigarette receptacles in Vancouver. (MICHAEL MUI/24 HOURS)

A tobacco giant supplied funding for cigarette receptacles in Vancouver. (MICHAEL MUI/24 HOURS)

The City of Vancouver is distancing itself from the industry funding behind its 100 downtown cigarette bins, as a local health authority warns the much-touted project was funded by Canada’s largest tobacco company.

A letter from Vancouver Coastal Health medical officer Dr. James Lu dated June 11 warned Richmond council — which is examining its own cigarette-butt problems — that the cigarette-receptacle initiative is “seemingly well-intentioned” but funded by Imperial Tobacco.

“The City of Vancouver unfortunately made the decision to engage TerraCycle Cigarette Waste Brigade last year without Vancouver Coastal Health’s prior knowledge,” he said in the letter.

“Vancouver is currently scaling down the deployment of the TerraCycle receptacles. The City of North Vancouver recently decided not to engage the TerraCycle (program) after being made aware of the link to the tobacco industry.”

VCH spokeswoman Anna Marie D’Angelo said a tobacco enforcement officer noticed the connection between the tobacco giant and TerraCycle after Vancouver’s program launched, during the examination of a promotion that gave away ashtrays.

“On it, they had the name of that company (TerraCycle) with Imperial Tobacco together,” she said, adding another problem is how receptacles create “de facto smoking areas” that promote smoking and increase risk of second-hand inhalation.

Deputy city manager Sadhu Johnston said Vancouver is now paying back $12,000 TerraCycle spent for the receptacles.

He said the city is also taking over operating costs for butt collection, which had previously been funded through TerraCycle.

“We know their model — which is industry funding — but at that point (during initial talks last year) it wasn’t clear to us who their partners were,” Johnston said.

Green Party Coun. Adriane Carr said the butt-collection idea was hers to begin with. She wanted to put a deposit on each pack of cigarettes sold — like bottles and cans — to pay for butt recycling, and filed a motion last year in council to do so.

But Vision Vancouver councillors “did a strike and replace” on her motion and substituted the original idea with the current tobacco-funded initiative, she said.

“There’s an ethical consideration here — do we really want the tobacco companies ... really, in what I think can only be described as a good PR move on their part, to be funding the recycling?” Carr said.

Vision Coun. Andrea Reimer, who headed a press conference last year to launch the program, was unavailable for comment.


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