Corporate Gaslighting and Conflicts of Interest at the Women’s College Hospital

I saw something that shocked me, and I don’t know how anyone involved with this could have thought it was a good idea.

This is what I saw

If you are a Canadian, you will probably understand.


It’s pretty much the same thing as this (slightly revised) image:

(pretend it’s done all the way)

What would you think if you saw that?

Shoppers Drug Mart is the antithesis of scent or fragrance free!


prominent fragrance section


No health care facility should be sponsored by fragrance companies!



Fortunately most pharmacies have stopped selling tobacco, but virtually all still sell fragranced products, which contain carcinogens, neurotoxins, asthmagens, endocrine disruptors, and more.

That they sell harmful fragranced (and other) toxic products and now also sponsor hospital web pages  should be illegal!


34.7 % of the population
reported one or more types of adverse health effects
from exposure to one or more types of fragranced products.

The most common types of adverse effects were as follows:

18.6 % respiratory problems; 16.2 % mucosal symptoms; 15.7 % migraine headaches; 10.6 % skin problems; 8.0 % asthma attacks; 7.2 % neurological problems; 5.8 % cognitive problems; 5.5 % gastrointestinal problems; 4.4 % cardiovascular problems; 4.0 % immune system problems; 3.8 % musculoskeletal problems; and 1.7 % other.”


Women’s College Hospital Fragrance-Free Policy page


I can’t understand how Shoppers Drug Mart got away with  sponsoring Women’s College Hospital and the Environmental Health Clinic website pages?

Where is the oversight? Who at the hospital thought this was a good idea?

Don’t they know about the clinic they house? Don’t they know about their own fragrance-free policy? Don’t they see the conflicts of interest? Don’t they see anything wrong with promoting an industry that sells health harming products on the hospital website?

It’s seriously no different than having tobacco ads, except it’s also worse, because this clinic is only one of 3 across Canada that specialize in diagnosing MCS/ES.


The Women’s College Hospital Environmental Health Clinic
in Toronto

Medical Description of ES page:


When one of the few places in the province that is supposed to be on our side agrees to post sponsorship ads for a corporate retail chain that is so fragranced and full of harmful VOCs that most of us who have MCS/ES can’t enter or use anything from their stores, or go anywhere people who use those products go (including the hospital and the clinic), then something is very wrong.


This year (2017) Breast Cancer Action tried to get Estee Lauder to stop using carcinogens in their products. Notice how SDM featured them on their website:

Shoppers sells Estee Lauder fragrances and products which contain carcinogens and other health harming ingredients


“Finally, for public officials, the problem of “secondhand scents,” or indirect exposure to fragranced products, has parallels to secondhand tobacco smoke.

Prevention from fragrance product exposure will enable individuals to work in their workplaces, attend school, and function in society without suffering involuntary harm.”

Health and societal effects from exposure
to fragranced consumer products


Fragrances at the entrance.


Shoppers Drug Mart has restricted (denied) our access to the post office since they bought the franchise rights.

We can’t even access our mail  from the post office franchises SDM bought up, or bring mail from there inside our homes (never mind get or swallow any meds)  because they would all be totally fragrance saturated due to 2nd hand contamination and thick clouds of 3rd hand or ambient and leaked fragrance.


If you have MCS/ES, you will know to the bone how we have been and continue to be subjected to corporate and societal gaslighting.
This is just one more egregious example.

On the other hand, here’s an example of how a health-harm-reduction policy could be written and enforced (once they add laundry products to the list):

Scent-free Environment

All persons who work in, attend as patients of, or visit Kingston General Hospital, have an obligation to help maintain a scent-free environment.


“All staff, patients, and visitors will:

Refrain from wearing cologne, perfume, scented personal care products such as body lotions, sprays, and powders, scented deodorant and hair care products, and aftershave lotions; avoid bringing in scented flowers including but not limited to: Freesias, Lilacs, lavenders, lilies (including day, tiger, Easter Lilies, lily of the valley, and star gazers), Hyacinth and Peonies; refrain from bringing scented air fresheners or personal hand lotions from home.

Fragrance –free hand lotions are available at the hospital.

Staff will advise all persons entering the hospital about the scent-free policy and educate all persons entering the facility about the health effects of scented products.

Patients who are wearing scented products may be asked to wash and/or change their clothing.

Visitors who wear scented products will be asked to leave.

Security will be involved as needed.

Staff who are wearing scented products may be asked to leave the area, wash, and/or change their clothing.

Staff who show disregard for the scent-free policy will face appropriate disciplinary action.

Suppliers will be notified of our policy and our mandate to purchase scent free products wherever possible.

The public will be advised of our policy through the media, and other venues such as appointment requisitions, and scent free signage posted throughout the hospital.”

Remember how well smoking and non-smoking sections worked?

They didn’t (if you are too young to remember). You either allow it or you don’t.
Same with fragrance or scent-free policies.


An aisle of disability and death in a Shoppers store


Since the WCH has a fragrance-free policy, and since they house the Environmental Health Clinic, one would think they know something about the health harms fragranced products are causing.
Aren’t the following statements somewhat hypocritical then?
Or is there a better way to make sense of this?

Public-health specialists worried that Shoppers Drug Mart
will sell pot

(Carly Weeks, February 24, 2016, The Globe and Mail)

… “This is corporate greed,” said Meldon Kahan, medical director of the substance use service at Toronto’s Women’s College Hospital. He said it would be “destructive and dishonest” if Shoppers and other health-care facilities were to present their plans as a medical service.

“We know that cannabis has risks and harms associated with use. If we were to put it in a pharmaceutical context, does that give an illusion of safety?”

She added that 50 years ago, pharmacies used to profit from the sale of tobacco and marketed cigarettes heavily. If marijuana moved into drugstores without strict government oversight, it could harm public health, she said.”

Health and societal effects from exposure
to fragranced consumer products

“Finally, for public officials, the problem of “secondhand scents,” or indirect exposure to fragranced products, has parallels to secondhand tobacco smoke.”



Backgrounder on Tobacco Sponsorships
Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada

…”After October 1, 2003, tobacco companies will no longer be able to use arts and sporting events to advertise their cigarette brands.  On that date, the sections of the federal Tobacco Act (1997) which exempted these activities from the general prohibition on lifestyle advertising of cigarettes cease to be in effect.

Tobacco companies will be allowed to give money to sporting and arts events – but they will no longer be able to display their brand names, logos or other recognizable promotions either on the site of the events or in posters, advertisements or other promotions.” …

We need similar laws for
toxic product and fragrance pushers!

Tobacco industry interference with tobacco control
(WHO 2008)


…”In an analogy with the classic public health model of communicable disease control, the tobacco industry has been described as the principal ‘vector’ of tobacco-caused disease (3). Like efforts to understand the chain of transmission and death in communicable diseases, comprehensive tobacco control requires that public health authorities monitor and counteract the efforts of the tobacco industry to promote tobacco use and to undermine tobacco control.”

(An analogy to that statement in this doc is that the fragrance industry and Shopper’s are a vector for MCS/ES because they sell perfumes, scented products and lots of other toxic products.)

You can substitute the word ‘Corporate’ or ‘Fragrance Industry’ for ‘Tobacco Industry’ in these paragraphs as they use the same tactics.

Strategies used by the tobacco (fragrance) industry

“Table 2 lists the many strategies used by the industry and its allies to monitor and undermine advances in tobacco control.

The diversity of these strategies demonstrates that the mission to thwart tobacco control is global (155, 156) and based on the broad objective of establishing the industry as ‘socially responsible’ and a ‘partner’ with government in tobacco control.

There is also evidence of the objective of stopping or weakening policies known to affect sales.

Corporate social responsibility – To promote voluntary measures as an effective way to address tobacco (fragrance) control and create an illusion of being a ‘changed’ company and to establish partnerships with health interests

Much of the tobacco industry’s influence over the legislative agenda has been achieved through political donations and “the employment of effective and well connected registered contract lobbyists… skilled at advancing the tobacco industry’s interests through quiet, behind the scenes, insider strategies.” (181)

The tobacco industry also uses philanthropy to achieve legislative goals, making contributions to policymakers’ favourite charities and exploiting the presentations of cheques as opportunities for lobbying (182). …

The self-regulating ‘corporate social responsibility’ movement is designed to replace government-mandated regulation (201).

Given that ‘corporate social responsibility’ appears to consist of making monetary or in- kind contributions to various programmes, tobacco (fragrance) control is likely to be achieved only when the tobacco (fragrance) industry is no longer able to promote its voluntary or non-mandatory support, financial
or otherwise.

$1,000,000 – $5,000,000 – Shoppers Drug Mart

“The tobacco industry is not and cannot be a partner in effective tobacco control.

The tobacco industry, however, sees itself as a legitimate stakeholder in tobacco control and attempts to position itself as a legitimate partner. The industry has and will continue to interfere in implementation of effective tobacco control, as outlined in the articles of the WHO FCTC.

Such interference can be minimized by strict controls on interactions and by setting rules of engagement, as well as by demanding transparency and disclosure of tobacco industry conduct and finances.”

(WHO ~ Tobacco industry interference with tobacco control)



The articles below, from Psychology Today, discuss personal and societal relationships, not how corporations or industries use gaslighting, but some of the techniques are the same, so these articles are useful nonetheless.


Bringing Gaslighting to Light, Part I


“Gaslighting occurs when someone denies having said or done something hurtful and turns it on the other person, accusing them of simply “being too sensitive” or “crazy” in an attempt to replace or overwrite the person’s reality.”


Bringing Gaslighting to Light, Part II


“Bringing Gaslighting to Light, Part II”
“10 Signs That a Relationship Has Gone Horribly Wrong”


Bringing Gaslighting to Light, Part IV



And this…


Think of the kid as being bullied by fragrance users, and maybe going into anaphylaxis if he has MCAS (related to but different from MCS/ES) while other users complain about a cashier smashing their fragranced products or exchanging them for fragrance-free products.


Who’s going to help put an end to this kind of nonsense


The time to step up and speak out is now!

8 responses to “Corporate Gaslighting and Conflicts of Interest at the Women’s College Hospital

  1. So, if you’re not Canadian are you too stupid?

  2. For the people who don’t get it:
    Look at it this way… you’ve just left an abusive relationship and are trying to stay away from harm, resorting to the shelter system, but now, the shelter is posting ads with your ex’s face everywhere.

  3. Someone shared this in an unrelated setting, but I think it could be said that because of social (disability) related grounds, promoting harmful products on those hospital and clinic pages, could be against the law.

    Who has the energy to pursue this?

    The Canadian Code of Advertising Standards

    The Code applies to “advertising” by (or for):

    corporations, organizations or institutions seeking to improve their public image or advance a point of view; and
    governments, government departments and crown corporations.

    10. Safety

    Advertisements must not without reason, justifiable on educational or social grounds, display a disregard for safety by depicting situations that might reasonably be interpreted as encouraging unsafe or dangerous practices, or acts.

    14. Unacceptable Depictions and Portrayals

    It is recognized that advertisements may be distasteful without necessarily conflicting with the provisions of this Clause 14; and the fact that a particular product or service may be offensive to some people is not sufficient grounds for objecting to an advertisement for that product or service.

    Advertisements shall not:

    (a) condone any form of personal discrimination, including that based upon race, national origin, religion, sex or age;

    (b) appear in a realistic manner to exploit, condone or incite violence; nor appear to condone, or directly encourage, bullying; nor directly encourage, or exhibit obvious indifference to, unlawful behaviour;

    (c) demean, denigrate or disparage one or more identifiable persons, group of persons, firms, organizations, industrial or commercial activities, professions, entities, products or services, or attempt to bring it or them into public contempt or ridicule;

    (d) undermine human dignity; or display obvious indifference to, or encourage, gratuitously and without merit, conduct or attitudes that offend the standards of public decency prevailing among a significant segment of the population.

    (fragranced and toxic products are not only harmful, they are disabling)

    Ontario Policy on ableism and discrimination based on disability

  4. Good news!

    Women’s College Hospital has removed the promo ads from their website!

    Now they need to upgrade and enforce their fragrance free policy!

  5. “It’s seriously no different than having tobacco ads, except it’s also worse, because this clinic is only one of 3 across Canada that specialize in diagnosing MCS/ES.”
    What are the other 2 I only know of Womans College.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.