Gayle Russell, Murwillumbah.
It was lovely to see the article, Vale Billy Snow, subversive BUGA Up graffiti artist, – and there is more to my old mate Billy than BUGA UP.
Bill and I met in Sydney in 1977 and the fusion of us two activists – both anti-smokers – led to a multi-layered approach to the campaign against tobacco. We were promoting the message that non-smokers had a right to be free from tobacco smoke – the first time this message hit the airwaves.
The initial focus was the formation of the Non-Smoker’s Right Movement (NSRM) in Sydney in 1978 – with Bill, myself and Brian McBride as the founders. BUGA UP came a little later and was a radical arm whilst NSRM worked systematically in more legal ways. Bill was part of both, but became better known as BUGA UP Bill as the refacing of billboards really started to make a difference to the promotion of tobacco products.
What was also important though was NSRM. We took on the issue of smoking in public transport and planes – and ultimately the workplace. We lobbied the authorities. Our message too spread around Australia and we had some amazing break-throughs. We had button badges made up with the message ‘Your smoking is hazardous to my health’ and we proudly wore these.
I remember Bill and I taking a carbon monoxide tester/monitor to Rooty Hill RSL in Sydney and sitting in the club measuring the levels of Carbon Monoxide. Our aim was to start to quantify evidence of pollution levels in workplaces or where people congregated. We were shocked at some or the readings we were recording.
The final breakthrough came with NSRM taking the case of a psychologist, whose asthma had become irreversible through exposure to ETS (environmental tobacco smoke) in the workplace. Leisel Scholem had spent many hours working with clients in her office – and in those days clients were allowed to smoke in consulting rooms. Liesel worked in a community health centre from 1974 till 1986 for the Department of Health. The great news was that our action was successful before the NSW District Court 1992 with Leisel awarded compensation. The brilliant thing was that it was the first passive smoking case to be decided in a full court hearing and set a world precedent. Now that is something for us activists.
Both BUGA UP, and NSRM which finally morphed into Non-Smokers Movement of Australia, acted as catalysts for the change that started to happen – that we appreciate today. And Billy was there as an inspiration to all of us back then.