Health group serves National Post with notice of libel suit

TORONTO, Nov. 10 /CNW/ - The Non-Smokers' Rights Association (NSRA) has served the National Post with a notice of the Association's intention to sue the paper under the Ontario Libel and Slander Act. The October 27th editorial alleged that the NSRA is "pressuring" the Ontario government to use building code reforms "to forbid smoking in all apartments and condominiums." The allegation is false and has harmed the NSRA. Although the National Post published a "correction" on November 3rd, the so-called "Correction" was itself incorrect and merely aggravated the harm done to the NSRA in the editorial.

"The NSRA, like virtually all health organizations," said Garfield Mahood, NSRA executive director, "is sensitive to concerns about regulating smoking in the privacy of the homes of smokers. This is just one of the reasons that Non-Smokers' Rights Association has always opposed a blanket prohibition on either tobacco or smoking, especially in private homes. However, in keeping with long-accepted common law and public health principles, when behaviour in private multi-unit dwellings creates a health hazard for others who are sharing the same air supply, the NSRA will continue to work with health units, municipalities, landlords and tenants to prevent second-hand smoke from harming innocent parties who share common air."

The NSRA takes the position that residents of multi-unit dwellings, when they share the same air through close proximity, ventilation systems, halls, stairways and leakage through cracks and gaps, must recognize that second-hand smoke presents a real risk to their neighbours and that they have a responsibility to their fellow residents. "Advocating for the elimination of this risk in multi-unit dwellings," said Mr. Mahood, "is in no way advocating for the prohibition alleged by the National Post."

"A ban on 'smoking in all apartments and condominiums,'" said Peter Downard, a lawyer with Fasken Martineau who specializes in the law of defamation, "would require provincial legislation. The NSRA has never advocated the use of building codes or any other measure to achieve this end. Nor has the NSRA advocated for criminalization of smoking behaviour as suggested by the headline (of the editorial) 'Turning smoking into a crime.'"

The lengthy editorial with its belittling and offensive language based on a false premise is "defamatory" and has harmed "a national organization which has won many national and international awards," said Downard. The NSRA was referred to by the Post as an "Ontario" organization.

In his notice under the Libel and Slander Act, Downard demanded a retraction and apology for the editorial.

The NSRA was the recipient of the inaugural Luther L. Terry Award created by the American Cancer Society to honour U.S. Surgeon General Luther Terry whose historic 1964 report established tobacco products as a cause of lung cancer. An international panel of judges cited the NSRA in the "Outstanding Organization" category for tobacco control organizations worldwide.

SOURCE Non-Smokers Rights Association

For further information: For further information: Garfield Mahood, Executive Director, Tel: (416) 928-2900, Cell: (416) 451-4285

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