Tobacco 21 builds momentum

Thumbs Up: It's good to see more retail outlets taking a stand against tobacco. Walgreens increased the minimum age to buy tobacco to 21 years old after it received criticism from the FDA earlier this year for selling tobacco products to minors. The policy will be implemented chain-wide starting Sept. 1. Walmart followed suit by also raising the tobacco sale age to 21. It is also discontinuing the sale of fruit and dessert-flavored nicotine, which are popular among underaged buyers. Health care experts say that raising the age to 21 will help reduce youth smoking and save lives. The National Academy of Medicine estimates that "Tobacco 21" measures will reduce smoking among 15-to-17-year-olds by 25 percent. The message is taking hold. So far, 12 states and more than 450 cities and counties across the U.S. have approved Tobacco 21 policies. Tobacco 21 should be enacted statewide. If the Legislature doesn't do it, Alexandria and Douglas County should.

Carriers' hunger effort

Thumbs Up: On May 13, local letter carriers came to the rescue of struggling families through the 25th annual Letter Carriers' Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive. This year's drive brought in almost 4,000 pounds of non-perishable food that was collected from generous postal patrons and delivered to the Douglas County Outreach Food Shelf, according to Jody Niesen, a food shelf board member. "Thanks to everyone for helping us provide families in need with a lifeline of basic nutrition," she noted.

Inattentive drivers

Thumbs Down: Drivers should be doing a better job in allowing farm workers to do their job, especially this time of year during the busy planting season. According to the last three years of data from the Minnesota Department of Transportation, there were 386 crashes involving farm equipment statewide, resulting in 166 injuries and six deaths. Inattentive driving and speed were the biggest contributing factors in those crashes. Farm equipment is large and heavy, making it hard for operators to accelerate, slow down and stop. The equipment also makes wide turns and sometimes crosses over the centerline. In addition, farm vehicles can create large blind spots, making it difficult for operators to see approaching vehicles. Motorists should slow down and use caution when approaching when approaching farm equipment; watch for debris dropped by trucks; brake or drive through debris instead of veering into oncoming cars or driving off the road; wait for a safe place to pass; wear seatbelts; and drive with headlights on at all times. Farm equipment operators can also reduce the chance of a crash by using lights and flashers to make equipment more visible; using slow-moving vehicle emblems on equipment traveling less than 30 mph; and consider using a follow vehicle when moving equipment, especially at night.

Inattentive drivers II

Thumbs Down: While on the topic of safer roads, drivers must also be on the lookout for highway workers. Last month, Minnesota proclaimed a "Worker Memorial Day" in recognition of the high price transportation workers have paid in the construction and maintenance of the state's transportation system. Since 1960, 35 MnDOT workers and 15 contractors have lost their lives while working on Minnesota highways. Drivers should honor those lives lost by staying alert in construction zones and watch for signs, equipment and workers.

Scuzzy tactic

Thumbs Down: If you receive an offer from an out-of-town business to have an Echo Press story about your business or organization displayed in a fancy, framed plaque, steer clear. An online company, based out of Connecticut, emailed such an offer to the Osakis School District. It wanted the district to shell out $199, plus shipping and handling, for such a plaque. Osakis school leaders were rightly suspicious and contacted the newspaper about the offer, which showed how the company was going to use the Echo Press story and masthead as part of the display. The promotion is a clear-cut violation of the newspaper's trademark and trade name rights. A company's can't use another company's name or logo for commercial purposes without consent. We're glad the Osakis School District let us know about the tactic. We've contacted the company and told them to stop infringing on our trademark. It's a scuzzy way of doing business.

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