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Editorial Roundup: Recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers

The Associated PressMay 28, 2019

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:

The Oklahoman. May 26, 2019.

— A boost for tobacco age change?

Walmart is a favorite target for critics who don’t like its pay practices, or its business model, or its impact on small-town commerce — you name it. Its decision to revamp its tobacco sales may not win Walmart many converts, but it merits a nod nonetheless.

Walmart says that beginning July 1, it (and its Sam’s Club stores) will sell tobacco products only to those 21 years and older. It also will stop selling fruit- and desert-flavored nicotine products. Cashiers who don’t follow the policies will be disciplined and could be fired.

In a letter to the Food and Drug Administration, Walmart’s ethics and compliance officer noted that “even a single sale of a tobacco product to a minor is one too many, and we take seriously our responsibilities in this regard.”

This move by the nation’s largest retailer could provide momentum for efforts to raise the nationwide smoking age to 21 from 18. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said recently he plans to introduce a bill to do that. (E-cigarette giant Juul also is pushing for the move to 21.)

A dozen states have already taken that step, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. The list includes neighboring Arkansas, where Walmart is based. In addition, more than 450 municipalities have raised their smoking age to 21, including Chicago, San Antonio and Minneapolis.

Health concerns, particularly related to youth, are at the heart of these moves.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids says the ages of 18 to 21 are “a critical period when many smokers move from experimental smoking to regular, daily use.” Also, the organization says, research shows youth often rely on older friends and classmates to buy their tobacco. Raising the age to 21 would make it more difficult for high school students to legally buy smokes for younger friends.

A 2015 report by what is now called the National Academy of Medicine said 15- to 17-year-olds would be the age group most impacted by raising the minimum age of legal access to tobacco. It estimated that bumping the age limit to 21 would generate a 12% decrease in the prevalence of tobacco use among today’s teens by the time they’re adults.

It also would result in an estimated 223,000 fewer premature deaths and 50,000 fewer deaths from lung cancer for those born between 2000 and 2019, the academy’s researchers said.

Oklahoma’s Legislature approved a tobacco tax increase last year that should deter use and lead some smokers to drop the habit. However, Oklahoma still has a “pre-emption” law that keeps municipalities from enacting restrictions on smoking that are greater than those found in state law. This needs to change.

And, efforts to raise the tobacco purchase age to 21 have gone nowhere. Perhaps this notable reset by Walmart, which has a considerable presence in communities across Oklahoma, will provide lawmakers with a reason to change course.

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Enid News & Eagle. May 28, 2019.

— Welcome, commissioner David Mason pledges to work hard, improve our community

The Enid City Commission is entering a new chapter with the departure of Mayor Bill Shewey and termed-out commissioners Ron Janzen and Tammy Wilson.

We wish all of these generous, dedicated public servants good luck in the future. And we welcome a new Enid commissioner to the fold.

On May 21, David Mason was named to fill the Ward 6 seat on the commission, which was vacated when George Pankonin was elected mayor and assumed that office May 7. Mason will serve out the rest of the term until May 2021.

Mason said he’s always felt very strongly about community service. We agree that a city can only be as strong and progressive as its citizens.

Once a public school teacher in Oklahoma, Mason owned and operated a construction business before becoming an insurance agent and moving to Enid in 2007. He lived here until work took him to Pennsylvania in 2010 and returned to Oklahoma in 2012.

Mason retired two years ago and currently serves on Metropolitan Area Planning Commission. While previously working for Farmers Insurance Group, he helped created “Bowling for Babies” and raised around $40,000 for the March of Dimes.

Raised in Altus, Mason also has served on the boards for the Court Appointed Special Advocates program, Grand National Quail Club and was president of the Enid Rotary Club from 2017-2018.

Fortunately, there were several qualified candidates considered for Enid’s vacancy on the commission. We thank Jack E. “Pappy” Beam III, Roy Schneider and Michael “Mike” Stuber for filing for the open seat and being willing to serve.

In the study session before the vote, Mason said described himself as a hard worker and as being effective at making hard decisions.

“I want to be a part of the Kaw Lake project for several reasons,” Mason said. “I think it’s going to be a great project. However, when you jump out there and spend $350 million on a project that’s going to take three to four years, having been in the construction business, I know that those overruns can happen very, very quickly. And you take a 10% overrun on that amount of money, that can get out of hand real, real quick.

“So, I think it’s going to be very important as a commission that we look at that and question everything that happens and just try to be studious of those dollars.”

Like all good representatives, we trust that Mason will put in the necessary time to do the homework required to serve on the commission. He’s pledged to work hard to make our community continually improve, and we welcome him aboard.

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Tulsa World. May 28, 2019.

— Stitt gets second chance to do the right thing on pharmacy bill, and he takes it

Congratulations to legislators who stuck to their guns on a proposal to bring more competition to Oklahoma drug stores.

Prescription benefit managers — commonly referred to as PBMs — are supposed to reduce prescription drug costs to insurance companies by encouraging the use of generic drugs, negotiating rebates from manufacturers, managing high-cost medications and reducing waste.

All of that is good, but small drug stores complain that the PBMs have increasingly been in the business of helping big chains grow their market shares by freezing out independent competition.

To address the issue, the Oklahoma Legislature overwhelmingly approved Senate Bill 841 earlier this year. The bill would have banned PBMs from blocking qualifying drug stores from their customer networks.

Not one legislator voted against the bill, but under strong pressure from the Oklahoma State Chamber, Gov. Kevin Stitt vetoed it.

Instead of mounting a veto override against the first-year governor, supporters of the idea worked out a second bill, House Bill 2632, that hit the same essential issues. They negotiated on some points but stuck to the critical element that PBMs could not exclude pharmacies from their networks if the pharmacy is “willing to accept the terms and conditions that the PBM has established for other pharmacies.”

That’s just fair play, right? If the little guy is willing to play by the same rules as the big companies, it should get the same deal. The winner here would be the consumer, who gets more choice and the lower prices PBMs are designed to produce.

Again, the proposal got essentially unanimous — i.e., veto-proof — support in both chambers. This time Stitt relented. He signed the bill last week.

We’re glad HB 2632′s sponsors — House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols (with the assistance of Rep. Marcus McEntire) and Sen. Greg McCortney — stuck by their guns. They gave Stitt a second chance to do the right thing, and he took it.

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