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Anti-smoking campaign offers huge dividends

The state's media campaign to reduce tobacco use is aimed at saving the lives of tens of thousands of Marylanders who could die needlessly in the years ahead as a result of tobacco use ("Maryland's tobacco policy isn't good for anyone's health," Sept. 25).

Each year, Maryland also faces an astounding $1.53 billion in health care expenditures directly caused by smoking and tobacco use. In 2001, Maryland spent an estimated $209 million in Medicaid costs attributable to tobacco use.

And Maryland businesses are hit with approximately $1.55 billion in productivity losses each year because of smoking and tobacco use.

Maryland has long been at the forefront of tobacco control efforts. The state has invested more than $177 million of its share of the tobacco settlement on anti-tobacco and anti-cancer programs.

Thousands have benefited from cancer screenings. Hundreds of smoking cessation sessions have been conducted throughout the state. Tobacco-use prevention curricula have been implemented in 114 Maryland schools. And Maryland has also helped tobacco farmers' change to more productive, life-sustaining crops.

As a result of these efforts, Maryland's teen-age smoking rate is declining faster than the national average.

And any claim that the state's "Smoking Stops Here" program is just a lavish advertising campaign flies in the face of reality.

This initiative targets communities and concerned citizens at the grass-roots level, then expands statewide.

While it is too early to provide conclusive evidence that the "Smoking Stops Here" campaign will achieve its goals, statewide coalitions, tobacco control advocates and various national tobacco control leaders have already voiced strong support for the program.

And since the campaign was launched, more than 35,000 Marylanders have visited the campaign's Web site, 5,700 people have signed personal pledges and 59 nonprofit organizations and coalitions have declared their support for the program.

In Maryland alone, the tobacco industry will spend an estimated $181 million this year on marketing and promotions. It is essential that Maryland takes steps to counter the industry's marketing of its death-inducing products.

Georges C. Benjamin


The writer is secretary of Maryland's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Spanking can help children learn

I must respond to the column "What do you teach by hitting your child?" (Opinion*Commentary, Oct. 1), and correct a common misconception: Spanking is not hitting.

When done properly -- with love, restraint and an eye to instruct -- spanking is one of the tools of child-rearing.

The Biblical book of Proverbs is a time-honored child-rearing manual. Proverbs 13:24 addresses this issue: "He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently."

If we love our children, we will begin early to teach them the ways of a law-abiding society. And spanking should never be done thoughtlessly -- in anger or frustration or for actions that are accidental or childish -- but only for deliberate disobedience, disrespect or dangerous foolishness.

It should only hurt enough to get the attention of the child and bring about repentance, and be done privately to avoid shame or disgrace.

The reason for a rod -- a small wooden dowel or spoon, perhaps, chosen specifically for this purpose -- is to separate the tool of correction from the hands of the parent, which are for loving and caring.

Once the child's backside stings enough to bring his or her full attention and contrition to the matter, the rod is laid aside, instruction is given, repentance and forgiveness are exchanged and love and acceptance can flow again.

Spanking in this manner is effective, and the need to do it fades as the child grows in understanding and wisdom.

A mother hitting a child is a sickening sight. The mother caught on video recently will receive discipline appropriate to her misdeed -- not out of thoughtless anger or outrage, but according to the laws of her state.

Done with love and according to the laws of God, spanking is no less appropriate.

Karen McIver


Probe shouldn't sully fine day care center

I feel I must write in response to the article "Locked-in toddler sparks probe of day care center" (Oct. 8).

My daughters (ages 3 and 5) are enrolled in that day care center, the Harford Heights Nursery Center. The oldest started 1 1/2 years ago, the youngest last year.

My children feel loved and wanted. They leave school every day happy and healthy. They are advancing academically in a very supportive environment; they write books, they do science experiments, they sing songs about the days of the week.

The school provides a healthy breakfast each morning. Every year the children cook Thanksgiving dinner for the parents the Wednesday before the holiday. Every month the children enjoy field trips to farms, parks and plays.

In addition, all teachers and assistants know the names and faces of each parent, whether or not their child is in the teacher's class. And parents are welcome to visit at any time without notice.

As a teacher at Baltimore City College, I feel I have a critical eye for education facilities. And Harford Heights is one of the best. I cannot imagine my children being anywhere else.

It would be a terrible tragedy if this one incident were to permanently blight the school's record.

Dana R. Colter


Focus on educating Maryland's children

As an alumnus of the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP), I have nothing but praise and appreciation of William Destler for his achievements and dedication to higher education.

But as a parent of a high school senior and a college student studying out of state, after reading Mr. Destler's column, I now understand that the university has lost focus on its mission for Maryland ("Don't undercut gains of Md. universities," Opinion

Commentary, Oct. 10).

According to the "Are you ready?" brochure sent to the freshman class of 2003, 26 percent of the UMCP's student body is made up of students from outside the state. And many of the "restricted admission colleges" have nearly (or even more than) 50 percent non-resident freshman admissions.

This is a credit to the outstanding institution Mr. Destler has worked so hard to establish. But perhaps the cost ($21,000 a year for a non-resident compared with about $35,000 to $40,000 for a private university) is what attracts so many outstanding out-of-state students. And, of course, the cost is subsidized by Maryland taxpayers.

It is wonderful to read that over half of all valedictorians and salutatorians graduating from Maryland high schools attend UMCP. However, that accounts for two students in each high school class; how about the rest?

I know for a fact I am not the only parent calling, writing and talking to my state senator and delegates about UMCP admissions policy.

Until the university's administration realizes that its primary mission as the flagship state university is to educate the residents of this state, the state should fund Towson University, Frostburg State University, Morgan State University, Coppin State College and other Maryland state colleges and universities that are serving our children.

Alex P. Gross

Owings Mills

HOV lanes on U.S. 50 nothing to celebrate

A High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane is opening soon on U.S. 50, and this taxpayer will not be celebrating ("Car pool about to pay more dividends," Sept. 30).

The government spent $19 million of our tax money so that a select few can speed along in a private lane while the rest of us, who contributed equally to the cost of the road, are relegated to crowded lanes of traffic. What kind of snobbish idea is that?

HOV lanes single out certain classes of people for special privileges and move traffic inefficiently. Have you ever sat in a traffic jam on Interstate 270 near Interstate 495 and watched a nearly empty HOV lane?

Job responsibilities and uncertain schedules make carpooling impossible for most commuters.

Consider this scenario. You are undergoing emergency surgery. The clock strikes five. Your surgeon removes his gloves and leaves the room. He has a car pool to meet.

If you have the kind of job you can walk away from at the same time every day, carpooling is a fine idea.

But the savings in gas and car use expenses are the reward for forming a carpool, and they should be enough.

Why should the rest of us pay a cost?

Ruth Townsend Shaw


Make Fells Point more welcoming

I was delighted to read Michael Olesker's article about the real heart of Fells Point -- its history -- rather than the usual articles about its bar scene ("Heralding Fells Point's place in U.S. history," Oct. 10).

My husband and I have lived in Fells Point for two years and have come to love this quirky treasure of a place. It's terrific to see so many tourists coming via Water Taxi from the Inner Harbor to find the area's unique shops and restaurants.

It is, however, disconcerting to see them take one good look around at the trash in the water and streets, the overgrown weeds and dead trees that have replaced the plantings along the water on Thames Street, only to get back on the Water Taxi to get away as quickly as they can.

If these visitors took a little more time and walked down Thames Street and passed the once-beautiful Recreation Pier building, with its plaque commemorating the filming of Homicide there, they'd be sure to notice the trash on the steps and the reek of urine.

Perhaps these tourists might try to cross the street and sit awhile on the benches in the square. Most likely, however, most of the benches would be taken up by the many vagrants who make their home there.

Or maybe the tourists would like to stroll down the once-beautifully bricked and now never-maintained pier, only to trip on the weeds growing between the bricks. Or to begin their visit at the Fells Point Visitor Center on South Ann Street, where they'd find a wealth of information about the area. But chances are they'd never find the center, since there's not a single sign to direct tourists to it.

There's so much growth going on here. But how are all of the businesses supposed to thrive if everyone who comes to shop or eat is greeted by so much unpleasantness?

The city has put millions into the Inner Harbor to make tourists feel welcome and safe, and it has paid off many times over.

In Fells Point, the charm is already here. With a little more attention to cleanliness, some paint on the Recreation Pier, the removal of dead trees, some weeding and planting and a few signs, Fells Point could be as attractive and welcoming to tourists and residents as any part of this city.

Linda Gross


Empowering parties at voters' expense

So one month before the general election, a political party can yank out its candidate for any reason it wants and put in another candidate ("Justices stay out of N.J. election," Oct. 8).

In other words, your vote in the primary may be useless, so why bother? Your absentee ballot may be useless, so why bother?

The Supreme Court of New Jersey says that if one of the major political parties isn't represented, even because of its own choices, the election wouldn't be fair to the voters. In other words, the law guarantees the two-party system.

We are now less of a government by the people, and more a government of the two-party career politicians.

The U.S. Supreme Court has made a major mistake in allowing a candidate shell game to be played. And now a precedent has been set. In the future, any candidate who falls behind in the polls the month before the election could be replaced by his or her party.

After all, the candidate was going to lose anyway, so what does the party have to lose?

I hope someone wakes up and introduces legislation that will prevent this abuse from occurring again.

Mik Megary

Ocean Pines

Replacing candidates no cause for outrage

The letter "N.J. court chooses politics over law" (Oct. 9) contains two glaring inaccuracies that completely undermine the outrage it expresses at the decision of the New Jersey Supreme Court in the Sen. Robert Torricelli matter.

First, six of the seven justices on New Jersey's Supreme Court were appointed by Republican governors and, one might therefore presume, were Republicans when they were appointed. They plainly were not "supporting their party instead of the law," as the writer cavalierly charges.

Could it be that, like the Florida Supreme Court in 2000, they were simply applying their state's law properly?

Second, there is nothing new about replacing candidates on ballots.

Indeed, in 1990, Minnesota's Republican candidate for governor, a right-wing moralist named Jon Grunseth, fell behind in the polls when it came to light that he'd been swimming in the nude with friends of his teen-age daughter. The Republican Party dumped Mr. Grunseth eight days before the general election, replacing him with Arne Carlson.

Minnesota Democrats didn't whine or try to stop the switch, although they knew Mr. Carlson probably would beat their candidate. (He did.)

And Minnesota's Republicans didn't care a fig about absentee voters then.

Obviously, Doug Forrester and New Jersey's Republicans are simply afraid to run a campaign based on issues rather than character assassination.

Rex Gordon


President's powers include waging war

Michael Meyerson's column "Decision on war belongs to Congress" (Opinion*Commentary, Oct. 9) states that "the framers of the Constitution were clear that only Congress can declare war."

This spin on the Constitution is frequently put forth as fact. But it fits the description given by a famed American commentator decades ago -- "facts that just ain't so."

What the Constitution says is that "Congress shall have the power to declare war."

The Framers well knew that the entire history of Britain and Europe was replete with rulers declaring war on their own; they inserted that line so that Congress also had such power, thus being independently able to compel a president to go to war if necessary.

If they had intended that only Congress should have the power to declare war, all they needed to do was insert before the word "Congress" one little word: "only." To presume that the Founders -- many of them lawyers -- didn't understand this is an insult to their intelligence.

And Congress has, in fact, formally declared few wars: against Great Britain in 1812, Mexico in 1846, Spain in 1898, Imperial Germany in 1917, and our enemies in World War II.

Big or small, full-scale or "peacekeeping," all of our other military actions -- and the list is a very long one -- were set in motion by the president himself, in his capacity as commander in chief.

Frank Pierce Young


Support for Iraq war is subject to question

Alexander E. Hooke's column "Are we willing to commit our flesh and blood?"(Opinion

Commentary, Oct. 8) starts to ask the right questions regarding how much support the American public really has for an invasion of Iraq. But I believe other questions need to be asked as well.

On the same day his column appeared, an article noted that a national poll showed 53 percent favored an invasion of Iraq with 40 percent opposed, when the general question of an attack was asked ("Opinion split in Maryland reflects a national division," Oct. 8).

However, when the possibility of 1,000 American deaths was added, those favoring the attack dropped to 43 percent, while those opposed rose to 51 percent.

This tells me that unless there are virtually no battle deaths, this country is opposed to such an attack.

To get a true sense of America's support for war, I believe that in addition to Mr. Hooke's questions regarding our willingness personally to fight or to have our children fight, the following questions need to be included in any poll:

Do you favor war with Iraq if 5,000 to 10,000 American soldiers would be killed or wounded?

Do you favor war with Iraq if American soldiers must be stationed in Iraq for 10 years following the ousting of Saddam Hussein to prevent civil war among the various religious and ethnic minorities?

Are you willing to pay for this war by giving up the remainder of the Bush tax cut?

Are you willing to pay for this war by giving back the tax cut already in place?

Are you willing to pay for this war with a surtax like the one imposed during the Vietnam War?

Unless the majority of Americans show their willingness to support this war with both blood and money by answering "yes" to most of these questions, then there is no real support for attacking Iraq. And, as we learned in Vietnam, fighting a war without the support of most Americans is no easy task.

Paul Turner

Severna Park

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