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Thursday, April 9, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Editorial

The Columbian: Raise smoking age to 21

The following abridged versions of Northwest editorials do not necessarily reflect the view of The Spokesman-Review’s editorial board.

The Columbian, Vancouver, June 1

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently revealed that fewer Americans are smoking cigarettes, the news could only be viewed as a positive.

It’s no secret that cigarette use causes myriad health problems for both smokers and bystanders, and that smoking increases health costs that are borne by all. In the past, medical officials have quantified that the risk of coronary disease and stroke are two to four times higher for smokers than for nonsmokers, and that the risk of bronchitis and emphysema are 10 times higher for smokers.

The new data showing that the percentage of adults who smoke fell to 15 percent in 2015 is a good sign for the nation’s health. And it also should serve as a notice for lawmakers in Washington to raise the legal smoking age from 18 to 21. If a reduction in smoking is unequivocally positive for public health, shouldn’t the Legislature take reasonable steps to further reduce the number of smokers?

Perhaps the best argument comes from the tobacco industry itself. In a confidential memo in 1986, an executive for Philip Morris wrote, “Raising the legal minimum age for cigarette purchase to 21 could gut our key young-adult market (17-20).” And, as Micah Berman, a professor of public health at The Ohio State University, wrote in 2013: “We know that almost no one starts using tobacco after age 21.”

The Olympian, May 31

A Senate Republican investigation into the Department of Corrections bungling that freed some 3,200 inmates early over 13 years is finally done. The Senate’s report supplements a previous investigation by two retired federal prosecutors hired by Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee to figure out what went wrong.

The 65-page GOP report suggests that former Corrections secretary Bernie Warner’s hands-off management style contributed to an agency culture that didn’t recognize the urgency of public safety as an overriding agency mission.

Inslee’s probe came to much the same conclusion about agency culture, but the Senate inquiry takes specific aim at Warner. It calls him a poor communicator, says he failed to make timely decisions and frequently was absent while attending out of state and international corrections events.

The Senate report even suggests that Warner should be held accountable after leaving the agency perhaps by having the governor put a letter of reprimand in his personnel file.

Investigators, who were acting under the direction of Republican Sens. Mike Padden and Steve O’Ban, get credit for dredging into concerns of DOC staff and some 71,000 pages of documents unearthed through records requests.

Though the probe’s taxpayer cost and the GOP’s political motivations may be in question in an election year, it’s clear that the Legislature has an oversight role to play in government, and the Senate Law and Justice Committee was playing that role to the hilt.

The report offers some reasonable suggestions for cleaning up the mess left by Corrections employees since 2002.

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