We do know how to diminish teen-age smoking Susan...


May 14, 2000

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.

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