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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Tobacco tax increase can expand care

As a Harford County small businessman, I commend Dan Rodricks for calling for a $1 per pack tobacco tax increase to help reduce teen-age smoking and expand access to health care ("Cut teen smoking by raising tax on packs," Dec. 10).

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Although I support this tax as a way to save lives and keep people healthy, I also support it because it will help my bottom line.

Right now, I pay full health care coverage for my employees, and I know that a significant portion of what I pay goes to cover the hospitalization of the uninsured.

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According to a study by Families USA, more than $900 of everyone's annual health insurance premium goes to pay for treating the uninsured.

If we use the tobacco tax revenue to get more people full health care coverage, I will have to subsidize fewer people through the insurance I provide for my employees.

Also, I know that every year smoking caused illnesses that cost our state billions of dollars - a cost we all bear through taxes and insurance premiums.

By reducing teenage smoking, the tobacco tax increase also will reduce this cost.

I hope the new governor and the General Assembly will follow Mr. Rodricks' advice to help our kids, the uninsured and business people like me.

Mark Derbyshire

Aberdeen

Legislators are late to ground-rent mess

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Kudos to The Sun for exposing the state's archaic and unfair ground-rent laws and the shenanigans (i.e. taking someone's home over a small bill) that some of Baltimore's legal culture seem to thrive on ("On Shaky Ground," Dec. 10- Dec. 12).

It's pathetic that there are those who prey on the middle- and lower class and seize houses over such small bills.

Thank goodness the General Assembly is now preparing to do something to fix these medieval laws ("Bills to tackle ground rents," Dec. 13).

But my question is: Where were the politicians before The Sun's articles?

I am glad they may do something now. But shame on them for waiting so long.

J. McDonald Kennedy

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Baltimore

It isn't just liberals who see a failed war

Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld believes that the Americans who make it difficult to win our fight against "Islamo-fascism" are the "same leftists who opposed U.S. strategy in standing against communism." Or so Cal Thomas reported in "Mr. Rumsfeld's parting shots" (Opinion

Commentary, Dec. 13).

There are at least two problems with Mr. Rumsfeld's belief.

One, the number of Americans now convinced that our misguided and mismanaged Iraq venture is futile well exceeds those who could be counted as "liberals."

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And two, the recent National Intelligence Estimate, which was conducted in large measure by members of Mr. Rumsfeld's own Department of Defense, reported that our war in Iraq has increased the threat of terrorism, not reduced it.

It's easy, when one's own efforts have failed as dismally as Mr. Rumsfeld's have, to blame others.

But in this case, it just won't wash.

Stanley L. Rodbell

Columbia

Troops keep dying while Bush dithers

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What will President Bush say to the families who lose soldiers in Iraq during this period while he dithers about the new way forward ("Bush to take time with Iraq decision," Dec. 14)?

Miriam Zadek

Lutherville

It's wrong to raze the city's history

Kudos to state comptroller William Donald Schaefer for his letter "Block a new blow to city's heritage" (Dec. 12).

Whatever one's opinion of Mr. Schaefer's politics, the former mayor of Baltimore could never be accused of failing to love his city or to work his heart out to make it better for all of us.

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And I agree with him that it is wrong for the city to "empower the planning commission to identify and protect historic structures, then blithely allow them to be torn down."

Velva Grebe

Towson

A move from rights to protecting public

The letter "Smoking ban limits freedom of choice" (Dec. 4), which proposes that each bar and restaurant owner should be permitted to decide whether to allow smoking, suggests that the writer does not recognize that secondhand smoke is a public health issue.

Should each restaurant owner decide whether or not to refrigerate dairy products? Or whether rodents should be allowed to roam the kitchen?

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Of course not.

Many laws mandate protection for our citizens - e.g. seat-belt safety laws, drinking-and-driving laws and even health codes requiring bars and restaurants to abide by food and worker safety standards - all with the goal of improving public health.

Cigarette smoke is a known carcinogen and the No. 1 one cause of preventable death worldwide.

Secondhand smoke has been linked to asthma, heart disease, stroke, low birth-weight babies and sudden infant death syndrome.

With nearly 1,500 nonsmoking Marylanders dying each year from secondhand smoke, it is time to move the discussion about smoking away from personal rights and toward public protection.

A ban on smoking in restaurants and bars will save lives.

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That's the choice that we should focus on.

Stephen M. Peregoy

Hunt Valley

The writer is president and CEO of the American Lung Association of Maryland.

Pelosi abuses church for partisan purpose

After reading "Pelosi to stress family, faith" (Dec. 12), I felt angry, scandalized and deeply offended to discover that incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's plans to use the Mass - the sacred liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church - for her own strategic political purposes in her effort to remake her liberal image.

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What audacity and deception she demonstrates as she attempts to use the Catholic community and church to further her own agenda.

And Ms. Pelosi's real history reveals that she has consistently been an extreme liberal whose policies and voting record indicate that she is at odds with the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Loretta J. Hoffman

Timonium

Our police officers remain real heroes

The recent shooting of state Trooper Eric D. Workman is a reminder that true heroes live among us - the troopers and police officers who, like Mr. Workman, repeatedly put themselves at mortal risk in their efforts to make our communities safer ("Wounded state trooper is improving," Dec. 14).

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It is an unhappy truth that, until tragedy strikes their ranks, we rarely think about these heroes. It is rarer still that we take the time to thank them for what they do for us

This holiday season, my hope is that in addition to saying a prayer for Mr. Workman's full recovery, we all make the small effort to send these heroes a card of thanks at their state police barracks, police station house or sheriff's office.

James R. Berger

Eldersburg


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