March 06, 2009

Limiting 'alcopops' helps protect teens

A bill before the House of Delegates aims to block the sale of so-called alcopops, or sweetened high-alcohol beverages, in establishments with beer-only sales licenses ("'Alcopops' bill takes a beating," Feb. 25).

These stores are places where kids congregate. And some studies suggest that teenagers are, by a wide margin, more familiar with these entry-level alcohol products than adults are and that at least 46 percent of all kids who drink have used alcopops.

According to the latest Youth Risk Behavior Survey in Maryland, 82 percent of high-schoolers have experimented with alcohol, and 25 percent use it one to three times or more a month.

This is disturbing news, because a mounting body of scientific evidence points to the lasting harmful effects of alcohol exposure on the adolescent brain.

Furthermore, the four leading causes of death in teenagers - motor vehicle accidents, unintentional injuries, homicides and suicides - are all linked with alcohol use.

We must support legislation like the bill to limit alcopops sales.

We ignore alcohol use in our kids at our own peril.

Dr. Dan Levy, Towson

The writer is a former president of the Maryland chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

O'Malley is right to engage citizens

I was surprised and disturbed to see Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller appear to reprimand Gov. Martin O'Malley for using e-mail to let supporters know of the opportunity to call or e-mail our senators about our feelings on the death penalty ("Chaos in the Senate," March 4).

I was one of those who received the governor's e-mail, and I very much appreciated him alerting me that an issue we both care about was up for debate and letting me know how I could have input.

Perhaps Mr. Miller would care to expand on his comments, since he sounded like he was asking Mr. O'Malley to keep citizens out of politics.

Is that where he thinks we citizens belong: uninformed and uninvolved?

Elizabeth Disney, Baltimore

Everyone needs access to pre-K

Thank you for the editorial on the legislation to expand public prekindergarten education in Maryland ("World-class early education," March 2).

My family is one of those shut out of prekindergarten by the current system.

My husband and I are residents of Prince George's County raising sons ages 2 and 5. We hoped to enroll our older son in public pre-K last fall so he would be ready for kindergarten next year. However, when we applied, we learned that our income was above the limit for the public pre-K program. So we were forced to find an alternative for our oldest son.

We hope the legislation to expand pre-K programs passes, so that when our youngest son is 4, there will be a public school pre-K program available for all children of his age.

Nakia T. Ngwala, Springdale

A time for restraint on Towson's growth

The Baltimore Sun's article about the president of Towson University was an excellent biographical piece that answered some questions I've had for some time ("Selling Towson," Feb. 22).

It's also gratifying to know that Towson University's empire-building, which began in 1969, is now being tempered with some restraint, reality and common sense.

That is all to the good. And I also hope that the university's current emphasis on bricks and mortar and increased enrollment will be balanced with equal or greater concern about what is supposed to be its main product: a high-quality education for its students.

Blaine Taylor, Towson

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