Colorado Editorial Roundup
The Denver Post, April 29, on stopping e-cigarette use among teens:
There was a time when it felt like this nation had Big Tobacco licked. Some of the baby boomers who had grown up smoking tossed their packs in the trash after watching their parents die of lung cancer. Generation X kids grew up knowing that cigarettes led to an early grave and simply had fewer role models lighting up.
Millennials grew up in a society where smoking was taboo. Even in New York City, club smokers were exiled to the street, and it all didn’t seem worth the hassle or the stigma.
But we’ve let our guard down.
There’s a good chance that a significant number of this next generation has been hooked on nicotine.
According to data from the 2017 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, 34% of high school students said they definitely or probably would use an electronic vapor product in the next year, and 27% of students reported having used an electronic vapor product in the past 30 days.
We must stop this epidemic.
While vaping is likely not as harmful on the lungs as a cigarette, the American Lung Association cautions that most products that use a heated liquid solution to deliver nicotine also include chemicals that are harmful. Nicotine is still not good for our developing children’s brains, and no addiction — especially a strong one that can lead to dangerous products like cigarettes — is healthy.
So what can we do?
Fortunately, there’s much on the table at the state and local level to respond to this epidemic. We just need elected officials to have the political courage to respond even as the industry lobbies for the opposite. Here’s our three-pronged list for action:
The age to buy products with nicotine needs to be raised to 21. It’s an easy and effective way to shut down the senior-straw-purchase pipeline that exists in every high school in the state. Municipalities are leading the way in this regard, with Aspen passing the first Tobacco 21 law in 2017. Denver is considering an ordinance now and we hope it passes; eventually, the state should follow suit. We’re puzzled that a bill wasn’t brought this year in the General Assembly.
Going hand-in-hand with that change, Colorado must start cracking down on those who sell tobacco products to underage kids. The Healthy Kids survey paints a dire picture. Of students under the age of 18 (the current legal age to buy tobacco products in Colorado) who reported regularly using vapor products, 23% said they were able to purchase the product at a store. The city of Denver should create a registry of stores that sell tobacco products to ensure none fall through the cracks when it comes time to check for compliance with the law. It could do so as it changes the smoking age.
Finally, Gov. Jared Polis is proposing to eliminate a loophole that allows vaping products to be sold without Colorado’s additional tobacco taxes being levied. It makes zero sense that a cigarette would face heavy sin taxes but other nicotine products would not. Polis also wants to increase the overall tobacco tax to help push smokers to cessation or discourage them from starting. But Polis must not only get the bills through the Capitol, he also must persuade voters to approve the sin tax at the ballot box. While we regret the taxes are so regressive, we are swayed by statistics that show increasing the price of tobacco products is an effective way to keep teens from smoking.
Together we can prevent kids from picking up a dangerous habit.
The Pueblo Chieftain, April 29, on a Colorado bill incentivizing school districts to buy locally produced food:
The idea of having government agencies buy goods and services from local suppliers has been around for a while. But this year, the Colorado Legislature has come up with a new twist by passing a bill that would provide incentives to school districts that buy and serve locally produced food.
Democratic Rep. Bri Buentello of Pueblo is one of the primary sponsors of the legislation, which was approved by both the Senate and House of Representatives with bipartisan support. The bill, which also was co-sponsored by fellow Democrat and Pueblo area Rep. Donald Valdez and a host of others, awaits the governor’s signature.
Under the bill, the state would provide reimbursement to school districts that buy certain amounts of their food from local sources, up to an annual maximum of $500,000 per school. The bill also would establish a grant program to help promote locally produced food.
This is a great idea, for a number of reasons. Obviously, there’s an economic benefit to local farmers if more school districts start buying their products. There’s also a benefit for other businesses if money school districts spend on food stays within those communities as opposed to going to out-of-state farms.
Food from local sources may be fresher when it arrives at school cafeterias than it would if it had to be shipped over longer distances. Transporting food shorter distances means less money is spent on fuel, which has an environmental benefit.
And, provided students are told where their meals come from, there could be an educational advantage of helping them better understand how the food supply process works.
It would be a different story if school districts were being required to buy certain quotas of food from local sources. That would allow suppliers to jack up their prices, which ultimately would cost taxpayers more money.
By making this program based on incentives, school districts should only make local purchases when it’s economically sensible to do so.
Buentello and her colleagues are to be applauded for passing legislation that should help Southern Colorado farmers, the businesses where they spend money and the state’s schoolchildren.
Greeley Tribune, April 26, on the trend of aging in place:
For many Colorado families staying at home as you age is preferable, but that can also present challenges with accessibility and safety.
Those same families may also wrestle with the difficult choice of moving to a smaller home or moving into an assisted living or care facility, which often are prohibitively expensive for many senior citizens.
An emerging trend in the home renovation business is attempting to tackle that challenge, and it’s called Aging in Place. The simple idea is to adapt a current home for the needs of the aged.
“We’d like to be in our own home and under our own steam, not dependent upon others,” said Kay Broderius of Greeley. “That might be wishful thinking, but doing remodeling helps make it possible longer.”
This is a choice facing thousands of people across Weld County and northern Colorado. It has given rise to Aging in Place certifications for contractors, and has helped remake the renovation business nationally. In 2018, American’s spent more money on remaking bathrooms since the Great Recession of 2008, and much of that money was spent on accessibility improvements for the elderly.
“Aging in Place is about trying to help people to remain in their home — safe, comfortable, happy and thriving as best as possible,” said Ellen Williams, co-owner of Waterford Homes, who along with her husband, Steve Whittle, are aging in place certified builders. “It’s trying to help people remain as independent, healthy and happy as long as possible in their own home.”
Clearly there are benefits for elderly people to enter into an assisted living home, but the AARP has found that most people prefer to stay home. A study by the organization found that 90 percent of people 65 and older want to stay in their homes as they grow older, rather than downsize or move into assisted living.
When it comes to planning for these changes it’s never too early to start the discussion, according to UNI Design’s Trish McKinney, also an aging in place certified specialist here in Greeley.
“Whether or not those clients are asking me for it, I’m always bringing it up to them and saying this is something we should be thinking about,” McKinney said.
For many seniors, these improvements are ultimately about safety. With our children we often look to childproof houses to make them safe, but that same needs to be true as we age. Preventing falls by making showers more accessible is one of the biggest changes people make, and for good reason.
A 2008 study by the Center for Disease Control found that more than 234,000 people were injured in bathroom falls. That means 98 people for every 100,000 population was injured, but it was significantly higher number for women. The place where people were injured the most? Getting out of the shower or out a bathtub.
In fact, fall death rates have increased between 2006 and 2016 and in 2015 more than $50 billion was spent treating fall injuries.
So, this is a trend for the positive and for the good of all of our residents, but especially for those elderly folks we all hold dear.