We do know how to diminish teen-age smoking
Susan Reimer should be commended for highlighting the problem of teen-age smoking in her recent column "Why the war on smoking backfires with teens" (May 2). Ms. Reimer correctly identifies the scope of the problem, but her column contains several incorrect assumptions.
In fact, successful tactics have been identified and utilized effectively to reduce teen-age smoking.
Teen-agers appear to be more responsive than adults to changes in the price of cigarettes. In jurisdictions with heavy cigarette taxes, teen-age smoking has decreased in proportion to the tax.
According to the American Cancer Society, a 10 percent increase in the price of tobacco reduces product demand among 12-to 17-year-olds by 12 percent.
Law enforcement is also key to reducing teen smoking.
While Ms. Reimer's column implied that enforcement of laws against illegal sales to minors has increased, a recent study by students in Howard County showed that more than 50 percent of merchants were willing to sell to underage youths ("Howard teens find smoking's easy," Feb. 24.)
Currently there is ongoing enforcement of bans on youth tobacco purchases in only a few Maryland jurisdictions.
We have a great deal of work ahead to keep teen-agers from a lifetime of tobacco addiction and getadults to quit. We should raise tobacco taxes, enforce current laws and get rid of secondhand smoke in all public places.
We need to focus on these things which have been proven to work and can effectively be accomplished in our own communities.
Mark E. Breaux and Glenn E. Schneider, Columbia
The writers co-chair the Howard County Coalition United for Good Health (COUGH).
Teens need to know that condoms can fail
The president of Planned Parenthood of Maryland wrote "Condoms can work and teen-agers need to know how" (letters, May 6) in response to a letter promoting abstinence.
The writer cited data from the Centers for Disease Control regarding a 2 percent condom breakage rate and an HIV infection rate of "only" two percent "with correct and consistent condom use."
In other words, if a "sexually active" couple "correctly and consistently" uses 100 condoms per year, two of them will break in use. If one partner is HIV-positive, the other is likely to be infected.
Teen-agers who are choosing not to abstain from sexual intercourse do "need accurate information about contraceptives."
But telling them that sex is safe when condoms are "correctly" used is like telling them that skydiving is safe if the parachute is put on correctly, knowing once in every 50 jumps, a parachute fails to open (a two percent failure rate).
William R. O'Brien, Ellicott City
Every school needs a full-time counselor
As chair of the Guidance Advisory Committee and parent at Hollifield Station Elementary School, I am writing to voice our support of the continued effort to increase the number of full-time guidance positions in elementary schools.
Our schools' counselor, for instance, is split between two schools. Counseling services are only available Thursday, Friday and every other Wednesday.
How can you tell a child in crisis to wait for the counselor? Early intervention is crucial. In fact, elementary schools are where school counselors are most vital.
In 1989, half-time guidance positions were first put into our elementary schools. We currently have 16 full-time positions and 21 half-time with five of the half-time positions split between two schools.
Every year something else is established as a budget priority (i.e. class size) and full-time guidance falls down the list.
The American Counseling Association (ACA) recommends a 1:250 counselor to student ratio. Howard County's elementary schools average is 1:850, which is the third worst in the state.
Early intervention, timeliness and continuity are of utmost importance to the academic and social success of our children.
Every school and every child deserves a full-time school counselor.
Kathy Hall, Ellicott City
No room for teachers such as Lockwood?
As a former physics teacher, I was saddened to read about the ordeals of Kristine Lockwood ("'Standing on Principle," May 2).
Surely, with her zest for life, abundant energy and interest in her students, Ms. Lockwood is desperately needed in the Howard County school system.
Alas, I suspect there is no longer room for the "Kristine Lockwoods" of this world.
Many school districts are hostage to politicized school boards which have agendas that they push or try to insinuate below the public's radar.
A more serious development, especially in affluent areas, is the way school systems have evolved into corporate appendages.
No longer are they primarily concerned with critical thinking and imparting value-free knowledge, but rather in training students to be dutiful little workers and consumers for the burgeoning corporate state.
Workers prepared, at the drop of a hat, to sacrifice their interests for the "team" or the corporation and subvert individual interests so that the corporate standard can be observed and promulgated.
The biggest tragedy of all, in Ms. Lockwood's case, is that students will lose a caring and insightful teacher.
Nor is it clear that the system will allow her spirit to be fully revived, no matter where she may go.
It's a tragedy on the whole for Howard County.
Philip A. Stahl, Columbia
Lockwood controversy obscures real problems
As the PTSA treasurer at Glenwood Middle School for the last two years, I am writing about the Kristine Lockwood situation.
I have a daughter in 7th-grade at Glenwood but she did not have Ms. Lockwood as a teacher.
I have the utmost respect for the staff and administration at Glenwood. They have done an excellent job and deserve recognition.
Whether you believe Ms. Lockwood or not, this is her issue and her issue alone. I am concerned about how some people can get so emotional about an issue they know so little about.
Before people pass judgment they should look at both sides and make an educated decision. And, most of all, we should never involve the children.
If we only would use this energy and enthusiasm to fight real issues that affect all our children at Glenwood, such as the school's overcrowding.
For next year the administration requested nine more more portable units, but we are only receiving four.
The school may have to use the media center as a classroom and we will have six floating teachers who will not have a classroom to call their own.
These are real issues that need all of our attention -- but instead we are focusing on Ms. Lockwood.
I think that by involving parents and students in her fight, Ms. Lockwood has done more to disrupt our school than she ever did to help it.
If Ms. Lockwood feels wrongly accused, there are avenues to resolve the situation that would be a lot less sensational.
Bob Terry, Woodbine
One more time: CA is not a government
The Sun's editorial "Columbia's challenge after McCarty" (May 2) got it wrong again.
The Columbia Association (CA) is a nonprofit private corporation that manages privately owned parks and recreation facilities paid for by the residents.
Funding comes from a property assessment called the CPRA lien. This lien is voluntarily accepted by residents and businesses when they locate in Columbia.
The CPRA lien is a fee to support a homeowners association (CA) and its parks and recreation facilities; it should not be misconstrued as a tax.
The association president is not "Columbia's version of a mayor," but a manager of a privately owned corporation.
Columbia is provided a full range or government services bv Howard County, which, by the way, does a very good job.
The Howard County Executive is Columbia's "version of a mayor." The function of the Columbia Council should not be confused with that of the Howard County Council.
Now, repeat after me: "the Columbia Association is not a government and its president is not a mayor; the Columbia Association is not a government and ..." Thomas Hatheway, Columbia
We need protection from criminals, not NRA
A recent letter asked "Who is going to protect us from the NRA?" (April 30). No one needs to protect us from the National Rifle Association.
The NRA is not in favor of giving weapons to youths with a history of depresssion. The NRA does not advocate youths having unsupervised access to any weapons, no matter who owns them.
The NRA does not support the right of a youth to steal bullets or anything else.
Indeed, the NRA would say that a whole bunch of existing laws were broken in the case of Tanun Wichainaraphong, the Ellicott City teen-ager who was shot in the back of the head.
The NRA advocates relentless enforcement of the existing laws. The NRA advocates training to help counter the tragic consequences of the misuse of firearms.
Somewhere around 2 million times a year someone in the United States uses a gun to defend him or herself; somewhere around 50,000 times a year someone in this country commits a violent gun crime.
If you take away the means of defense in those 2 million cases, what do you suppose happens to the 50,000?
You guessed it -- gun violence goes up.
Whenever another state promotes private ownership of guns by law abiding citizens, by passing a "shall issue" concealed carry permit law, what happens?
You guessed it -- gun violence goes down in proportion tothe permits issued.
Jeff White, Ellicott City