North Carolina editorial roundup
Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:
The News & Record of Greensboro on North Carolina’s lawsuit involving e-cigarettes:
Last week, North Carolina became the first state to file a lawsuit against Juul Labs Inc., maker of a top-selling electronic cigarette, contending that it targets underage youths with its products. Others may follow.
We appreciate that N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein has taken the lead in protecting our children from manipulative advertising that could have deadly results.
“Juul’s business practices are not only reckless, they’re illegal, and I intend to put a stop to them,” Stein said in a statement. “We cannot allow another generation of young people to become addicted to nicotine.”
The last decade has seen a rise in the use of electronic cigarettes, or e-cigs, and much of that rise has been among underage users. In North Carolina, e-cig use among high school students has risen a staggering 894% percent between 2011 and 2017, according to the North Carolina Youth Tobacco Survey.
Those numbers contribute to the more than 28% of N.C. youth who use tobacco products.
E-cigarettes themselves are often portrayed as a safer option than traditional cigarettes. They don’t carry the heavy, lingering scent of tobacco, which probably helps them appear less harmful.
Their cyberpunk “vibe” also makes them seem edgy and rebellious — always a good lure for American youth — and, to make matters worse, they have been offered in flavors that seem expressly designed to appeal to young consumers.
But e-cigs still contain nicotine in levels that can be both harmful and addictive.
“And there’s a growing body of evidence that nicotine can harm the developing adolescent brain,” said Brian King, deputy director for research translation in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Office on Smoking and Health.
For its part, Juul, which entered the mainstream retail marketplace in 2015, says it shares Stein’s concerns and has been more aggressive than anyone in the industry in combating youth usage.
Juul has taken some very public steps to reduce underage use. It has joined Philip Morris USA and Reynolds Tobacco in advocating to raise the purchasing age from 18 to 21 for all tobacco products.
In November, Juul withdrew flavors such as creme, cucumber, fruit and mango from convenience stores and vape shops, leaving only tobacco, mint and menthol.
But those flavors are still available for order from its website, which Stein says uses “lax age verification techniques for online purchases that allowed purchasers to avoid or circumvent age requirements.”
Children are going to be rebellious. They’re going to find ways to differentiate themselves from their parents and other adults. That’s natural.
We can’t stop it all. But we can certainly discourage its most harmful elements and encourage healthier pursuits.
The legislature also could help curb youth smoking by passing bipartisan House Bill 725, which would commit $17 million in each of the next two budget years toward anti-youth-smoking efforts, as well as another $17.5 million to the Golden Leaf Foundation.
And the producers of tobacco products can be required to be more responsible. We cannot allow them to lure our children into a habit that we know has deadly consequences.
Winston-Salem Journal on the Class of 2019:
May is generally a month of transition, from showers to sunshine and flowers and from college campuses to “the real world.” Winston-Salem and Forsyth County are blessed with several institutions of higher learning that are holding graduation ceremonies this month. Each of these schools, while different in various characteristics, provides a high-quality education. Each graduation ceremony has its unique flavor, but they’re all celebratory.
We’d like to join the well-wishers. A diploma, whether associate’s, undergraduate or graduate, is quite an achievement. If nothing else, it shows a degree of commitment and discipline — precursors to success. With the achievement, for each student, comes freedom and high expectations.
National attention — as exhibited by a crew from NBC’s “Today” show — was drawn to 99-year-old Elizabeth Barker Johnson, who was among the 1,100 graduates of Winston-Salem State University who marched across the stage on May 10 at Joel Coliseum to accept their diplomas. She graduated from WSSU with a teaching degree in 1949, but missed the ceremony then to start a new teaching job.
“This was long overdue and well-deserved, a big day,” her daughter, Cynthia Scott, said. “I’m just so, so proud.”
We feel that pride — for Johnson and all the WSSU graduates, from whom we expect great things.
About 1,459 students graduated in a ceremony the previous day, also in Joel Coliseum, from Forsyth Technical Community College, with associate’s degrees, certificates and diplomas in practical fields like nursing and IT-technical support and services, many with jobs waiting. During the ceremony, College President Janet Spriggs shared some wisdom: “We all have a finite amount of time to write our life story. I believe that the best use of our time is when we live our life so that our legacies are not tied to physical objects or material structures, but rather our legacies are seen in the lives of people .. I encourage all of you to live a life that leaves the world a better place because of the difference that you make.”
We think they will.
The graduating class at the UNC School of the Arts was smaller — 246 students received undergraduate and graduate degrees on May 4 at a ceremony in the Stevens Center in downtown Winston-Salem — but the celebration was just as spirited. And the message presented by speaker Mary-Mitchell Campbell, a conductor and composer who graduated from UNCSA’s high school in 1992, was timely.
“When situations like what happened at UNC Charlotte happen, it’s our job to make great art,” Campbell said. “We are living in incredibly crazy times. No matter where you fall in your opinions about the world ... we need brilliant artists to step it up and lead the way. Now is not the time to be silent.”
To which we can only add, “Amen.”
The graduation season continues today with exercises at Wake Forest University, where Washington Post Publisher Fred Ryan will deliver a commencement address to nearly 2,000 graduates and their friends and families; and Saturday, for around 222 graduates of Salem College, at Joel Coliseum, where NASA astronaut Stephanie D. Wilson will be the commencement speaker. “As a woman at the top of her field, one of our country’s best and brightest, she is a role model who exemplifies Salem’s focus on intelligence, courage, leadership and resilience,” Salem College President Sandra J. Doran said. We agree.
To all, our heart-felt congratulations and best wishes for the future. Your achievement carries with it the responsibility of representing the good name of your city and your county. As many of you leave the nest and move to other localities, hold your heads high. And tell them where you’re from.
The Charlotte Observer on Sen. Thom Tillis and the LGBTQ community:
If you’re a member of the LGBTQ community — or perhaps anyone who has lived in North Carolina the past decade — you were probably surprised to learn that Thom Tillis is a “pro-LGBTQ Republican.”
It’s true, according to the American Unity Fund, a conservative gay rights group that lauded Tillis in an invitation to a GOP fundraiser this week. Apparently, the group was smitten by a statement Tillis made after N.C. lawmakers passed a 2017 compromise to repeal the discriminatory and destructive HB2. In that statement, he said that North Carolina shouldn’t be “beholden to the loudest voices on either the far-left or far-right.” This appears to be what passes for LGBTQ support these days in some circles.
Tillis carefully accepted the American Unity Fund praise, saying that “I think it probably is the best statement about how I go after politics I care about.” He didn’t, however, declare whether he actually was a “pro-LGBTQ Republican.”
Let’s clarify: He’s not. Time after time, when the LGBTQ community has faced the pain of public discrimination in North Carolina, Tillis has either been silent or an active participant in that pain.
The latter was true in 2012, when then-N.C. House Speaker Tillis supported North Carolina’s Amendment One, the last state amendment in the country to ban same-sex marriage. When his “friends” in the LGBTQ community stood to speak of how disheartening it was to be told they were not worthy of marriage, Tillis did not stand with them.
He did say something, however. In a speech to N.C. State students that spring, Tillis remarked that the same-sex marriage ban would probably be reversed within 20 years, anyway. It was very on-brand for Tillis — trying to have it both ways politically but instead annoying everyone. Ultimately, Tillis showed his true non-rainbow colors by hiring lawyers to fight for Amendment One after experts declared it dead in the courts.
As for HB2, Tillis might have tried to find middle ground with the 2017 compromise repeal, but when the so-called “bathroom bill” was crafted and adopted a year earlier, Tillis made hardly a peep in defense of the LGBTQ community. Later, when the Department of Justice gave North Carolina officials a deadline to declare they wouldn’t enforce the discriminatory bill, Tillis ignored reporters who wondered what he thought about it all.
Tillis also has voted against amendments to provide anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ students in public schools and for homeless LGBTQ youth seeking housing, education and job training. He briefly protested in 2017 when President Donald Trump said he wanted to ban transgender troops from serving in the military, but when that ban took effect last month, Tillis didn’t lift a finger to support House and Senate bills that would block the ban.
We’re in a golden era of the big political lie, mastered by a president who knows his supporters will believe whatever whoppers he delivers. Get ready for more eye-rollers as election season arrives — like how NC-09 candidate Dan Bishop didn’t knowingly invest in a website that supported hate speech, or how Thom Tillis is a BFF of gays, lesbians and transgender people. The LGBTQ community knows better. So should voters.