Saturday Mailbox

SATURDAY MAILBOX

October 19, 2002

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

Annapolis

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

Laurel

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.

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