To the editor:

I regret that Dr. Abby Lippman (letter to the editor, McGill Reporter, February 11) interprets the cancellation of the February 2 event at the School of Architecture as an attempt to exclude public participation in plans for the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC).

Since the completion of our preliminary feasibility studies in early 1998, we have undertaken a series of information meetings with key external stakeholders, ranging from municipal, provincial and federal politicians to groups such as the Montreal Board of Trade and the Conseil du Patronat du Québec.

We have twice consulted with representatives of heritage groups such as Sauvons Montréal, Les Amis de la Montagne and Heritage Montreal. We have met with the editorial boards of all of the city's newspapers and with reporters from all the local weeklies, and MUHC spokespersons have frequently been heard on the radio and seen on television. Our first ever MUHC Annual General Meeting on January 27 was open to the public and widely advertised.

We have also taken our message to the broader community, with presentations on the project to area rotary clubs, multicultural organizations, retirement homes, seniors' organizations and many other interested groups and associations. Our goal is to increase knowledge and understanding of the project, as well as to solicit the views of stakeholders. On each occasion, we have welcomed questions and opinions from those in attendance.

It is within this context that we took the decision to cancel the event at the School of Architecture. This was to be a unique opportunity for an in-depth discussion between MUHC consultants and faculty and students from the school on physical facilities aspects of planning for the new facility. (The meeting was to last nearly four hours.) While we did agree to limited advertising on the McGill campus, it became clear over time that the event was being turned into a kind of "town hall meeting" or public debate on the reuse of the existing sites, which was not the goal agreed upon in the beginning.

We welcome input from the community and continue to actively seek opportunities for dialogue with members of the public. We are also committed to formal public consultation on the reuse of the existing sites as well as on other aspects of the project. The appropriate timing and venue for consultation will become clearer once the committees and agencies dealing with these issues have been set up.

H. Arnold Steinberg
Chair of the Board
McGill University Health Centre

To the editor:

I am dismayed by your support of tobacco ads. While recognizing the harm that tobacco does, you argue that there is no problem in taking such ads, because "The people who work in and study at universities are smart enough to know these facts -- and calculate the risks for themselves."

This is a misguided argument. Most smokers -- whether university-based or not -- know better, but go on smoking. This is because smoking is not the result of a deliberate, sustained, choice.

They continue smoking in part because of nicotine addiction, but also because the negative messages about smoking are counteracted by positive messages, e.g. tobacco advertising in the Reporter. Does advertising bear the primary responsibility for people smoking? Probably not. Does it have no effect? If it didn't, there would be no point in advertising.

There is another reason for pulling out of tobacco advertising, and it is a tactical one. At this point, there is a concerted pressure on the tobacco industry, and by refusing ads from it, the Reporter will do a small part in making that industry less legitimate.

Professor Jerome Rousseau
Department of Anthropology

To the editor:

In the letters to the editor section of the February 25 issue of the Reporter I was interested to see a letter from Professor Robert Kok scolding you for carrying an ad from a tobacco company. Just to keep the record straight I shall refer you to the McGill News of 1937/38 which boasted a full page ad exhorting students to buy "McGill Cigarettes" as their contribution to the Gymnasium Building Fund!

I was a McGill freshman at that time, fresh from home, living in Royal Victoria College and trying very hard to be "with it." Naturally I was completely taken in by the attractive red and white cigarette box and the knowledge that, by my efforts, McGill was finally to have its own gymnasium. I remained a smoker for the next 60 years but managed to quit two years ago.

I am currently a volunteer at the McGill Archives and recently did some sorting of RVC material in preparation for its centennial. Among the papers there was more than one exchange between the warden of RVC and McGill's principal on the evils of smoking and how best it could be dealt with in the residence. This was in the early '30s.

So this over-long letter just shows that times swing from concern for young ladies' health (to say nothing of setting fire to RVC) to the need to build a facility sponsoring sports and back to health concerns of just about everybody.

Mrs Elizabeth Shapiro
BSc'41, BA'89

To the editor:

I noticed the du Maurier Arts ad published in the February 25 issue of the McGill Reporter, as well as the complaints of some of your readers and your answer to their comments.

I have to say that I personally was quite happy that the McGill Reporter had dared placing an ad by a tobacco company, particularly one of du Maurier Arts. In the light of ongoing government cuts in the cultural sector, arts organizations are being challenged like never before to discover new funding sources, primarily in the private sector.

The arts milieu was shocked last year when the federal government introduced Bill C71 that will limit advertising and cigarette company identification to a minimum, therefore putting in question tobacco company funding for the arts and jeopardizing numerous arts events. Many small (and not so small) arts companies rely on the private sector to help produce festivals, concerts series, dance shows or to mount exhibitions.

Du Maurier Arts has been an important sponsor for the arts. In 1995, it handed out $1.5 million to more than 160 performing arts organizations, including the Montreal International Jazz Festival. This season, 215 cultural organizations across the country benefit from their help.

I hope they will be able to continue their support to artistic activities. I am a nonsmoker, and I am convinced I will always be one, whether or not I see ads of tobacco companies in the newspapers or at jazz festivals or concerts.

If banning all forms of advertisement by tobacco companies would ensure that people never start smoking, I would follow the trend and be all for it. But, as far as I know, this has not yet been proven. Proponents of the ban on advertising argue that it incites people to smoke; opponents suggest that it only encourages people who already smoke to buy a particular brand. Whatever the case, we are all informed of the risks of smoking thanks to aggressive public campaigns. I believe that the choice remains an individual one. For the moment, I support your decision.

Isolde Lagacé
Director of Concerts and Publicity
Faculty of Music