Tobacco-free champion

Dan MacQuarrie, outspoken advocate on tobacco use issues, is one of 10 BC individuals and organizations being recognized

Dan MacQuarrie admires the 2013 Champion for Tobacco-Free Living Award he received from the BC Lung Association and the BC and Yukon Heart and Stroke Foundation. MacQuarrie is one of only 10 individuals and/or organizations to be recognized in the province.

Dan MacQuarrie admires the 2013 Champion for Tobacco-Free Living Award he received from the BC Lung Association and the BC and Yukon Heart and Stroke Foundation. MacQuarrie is one of only 10 individuals and/or organizations to be recognized in the province.

Dan MacQuarrie, a retired Salmon Arm city councillor and outspoken advocate on tobacco use issues, is one of 10 BC individuals and organizations being recognized as a 2013 Champion for Tobacco-Free Living Award Winner by the BC Lung Association and the Heart and Stroke Foundation (BC & Yukon).

The awards, launched for the first time this year, recognize efforts to reduce the harmful effects of tobacco and will be presented during National Non-Smoking Week, Jan. 20 to 26.

MacQuarrie’s many credits include helping to implement Salmon Arm’s first bylaw on smoking restrictions in 1989 and establishing Salmon Arm’s Coalition for Health, which is a multi-disciplinary committee of community members and health professionals dedicated to reducing harm from second-hand smoke.

Winners of the Champion for Tobacco-Free Living Awards are chosen by the BC Lung Association and the Heart and Stroke Foundation (BC & Yukon) for their long-term contribution to clearing the air of second-hand smoke, helping people quit smoking and encouraging British Columbians to stay tobacco-free.

Nominees are selected by B.C. community members, public health staff and health-care professionals.

Scott McDonald, CEO of the BC Lung Association, cites MacQuarrie’s 35-year fight to raise awareness of the harms of tobacco smoke and his unyielding resolve to make his local community a safer, healthier, smoke-free place to live and work as reasons for the award.

“Recent headlines have many thinking the most pressing public health concern is obesity, lack of physical activity or perhaps illegal drug use. All are important. However, the leading cause of preventable death in British Columbia is tobacco-related illness,” he said.

“It is with the help of champions like Dan MacQuarrie that we continue to make progress on this important health issue.”

“Dan is truly deserving of this award,” adds Diego Marchese, CEO, Heart and Stroke Foundation (BC & Yukon).  “Throughout the years, he has weathered harsh criticism and setbacks, but never given up. He is a true inspiration.”

In the late 1940s, MacQuarrie had a job trucking oilfield equipment from Edmonton, Alberta to Unity, Saskatchewan.  “In those days, to be a man in the oilfield was to smoke. And I inhaled three packs a day,” he says.

MacQuarrie recalls the moment he finally quit. “It was early, about 6 a.m., and I was nearing Oyen, Alberta. I knew a place that served breakfast at 7 a.m. On my way I lit up a cigarette and started coughing – and just couldn’t stop.

“Finally, I asked myself, ‘who’s the boss here, me or the cigarette?’ At that very moment I picked up my last pack of cigarettes and fired them out the window. I never smoked again.”

Years later, in 1975, during MacQuarrie’s first of three terms as alderman for the District of Salmon Arm, he suggested there be no smoking in public buildings.

At the time, one was allowed to smoke everywhere – in meetings, at restaurants, bars, and even in airplanes. People thought he was crazy. But that didn’t discourage him. MacQuarrie got involved with other anti-tobacco advocacy groups across Canada and lobbied whenever and wherever.

“I remember a story of a lady who worked in an Edmonton fast food restaurant and had died of lung disease. She had never smoked, but everyone around her did,” says MacQuarrie.

“After hearing that I did more research, and discovered things like how debilitating second-hand smoke can be to pregnant women and children.  I just had to do something.”

Today MacQuarrie remains as committed as ever. His current focus is the promotion of a smoke-free parks and beaches bylaw.

“Most important to me is the impact on children,” MacQuarrie says. “We must stop exposing children to second-hand smoke, wherever they are, including parks and beaches.”