Editor’s note: Today’s guest editorials originally appeared in The Seattle Times and The Columbian. Editorial content from other publications and authors is provided to give readers a sampling of regional and national opinion and does not necessarily reflect positions endorsed by the Editorial Board of The Daily News.
Federal lawmakers should follow the lead of Washington and at least 17 other states in raising the age of legal sale for vapor and tobacco products to age 21.
Doing so will make it more difficult for high school students to access these potentially harmful products, while helping keep them out of the hands of even younger teens.
Although it is often pitched as a safer alternative to cigarettes for existing adult smokers, vaping has been devastatingly popular with young people. In a recent survey, one third of the state’s high school seniors reported using e-cigarettes in 2018. According to national data, 5 million children use e-cigarettes, compared with 8 million adults.
Trump administration officials are said to be considering increasing the legal age of purchase and banning flavored e-cigarette products. Vape juices flavored to taste like candy, fruit or sweet deserts are popular with young users, who also say they appreciate small, discreet vape pens over traditional tobacco cigarettes.
But nicotine can harm developing brains regardless of how it is ingested — through smoke, water vapor or chew. And as this summer’s rash of vaping-related lung injuries so clearly demonstrates, additives may present other unknown dangers. As of last week, 2,051 cases of vaping-related lung injuries had been reported in 49 states — every state except Alaska. Thirty-nine deaths had been confirmed. At least 14 cases of vaping associated lung injury have been reported in Washington since April.
The apparent link between the injuries and the additive vitamin E acetate has the CDC urging people to avoid e-cigarette products containing THC, particularly from informal sources or online merchants. The Washington State Department of Health has asked the state’s vapor product processors to stop using vitamin E acetate or distributing products containing the additive as health officials review the evidence.
Last month, the Washington State Board of Health passed an emergency ban on flavored vapor products. Washington’s age restriction takes effect on Jan. 1.
For years, e-cigarettes have largely been given a pass by regulators, based on the lack of evidence of actual harm. Those days are definitively over. A federal ban on underage sales, and tighter restrictions on flavorings and additives are needed to safeguard public health.
National Parks need Congress to take actionNational parks might be “America’s Best Idea,” but even a great idea can wither from a lack of care. Congress should act quickly to provide needed spending for infrastructure at the parks, including Mount Rainier, North Cascades and Olympic in Washington.
The U.S. National Park Service reports a $12 billion backlog in maintenance needs throughout the system. In one example, officials recently added to the list a deteriorating bridge at Yellowstone National Park, where concrete is falling from the 1960s-era span over the Yellowstone River. In another example, Yellowstone’s seasonal staff members are housed in 40-year-old trailers with leaky roofs, and employee housing throughout the park system is estimated to require $186 million in repairs.
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Closer to home, the list of necessary repairs at Mount Rainier National Park also amounts to $186 million, while $126 million in maintenance is recommended for Olympic National Park.
Restore Our Parks legislation (S.500 and H.R.1225) has broad bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress.
The House bill is led by Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., and has 329 co-sponsors — including all members of the Washington delegation except for Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground.
The legislation would commit $6.5 billion over five years to improve park infrastructure, with funding coming from offshore and onshore royalty revenues for oil and gas leases on public lands. Earlier this year, such royalties were approved for permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Restore Our Parks legislation is languishing in Congress. The House bill sailed through multiple committees and is awaiting a floor vote. The Senate bill remains in committee, and supporters hope it will be brought to the floor for a vote before the holidays.
“This legislation represents one of the most significant investments in the 100-year history of the Park Service,” co-lead author Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., told UPI. “The longer we kick the can on the deferred maintenance backlog, the more we’ll hold back communities that rely on visitors to help generate economic activity.”
That is one of the primary reasons the bills warrant support. According to a study released in June from researchers at Harvard University and Colorado State University, America’s national parks have an economic impact of about $100 billion per year. Visitors from near and far take in America’s grand vistas, spending money in nearby communities that rely on the parks as economic engines.
Last month, about 400 mayors and other officials from towns near national parks urged Congress to move forward with the bills, writing, “As gateways to national parks, we understand firsthand the economic importance of sustaining these special places in ways that attract visitation and tourism.”
A 2018 study by Pew Charitable Trust estimated that national parks and neighboring hotels, restaurants and stores are responsible for 330,000 jobs. Proper maintenance of the parks, the study estimated, could result in an additional 100,000 jobs.
Commerce, however, is only one reason for providing the care the parks need. Established a century ago to preserve the United States’ most stunning landscapes, the park system has long reflected this nation’s environmental stewardship. Keeping it in good repair protects the legacy we will pass along to our children and grandchildren.
“It truly is ‘America’s Best Idea,’ “ Harvard researcher Linda Bilmes said. “Also America’s best investment, our research shows.”