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Timely advice

Thumbs Up: Sergeant Jesse Grabow with the State Patrol recently shared common-sense tips about how to prevent your vehicle — or its contents — from being stolen. It's timely advice for those who often leave their cars running and doors unlocked when it's cold out. His advice: Never leave your car running unattended. Never leave your keys in the vehicle. Always lock your vehicle. Look at purchasing a remote car starter as most of them have built-in security features while your vehicle is running to prevent the vehicle from being driven. Don't leave valuables in plain sight. Place valuable items in the trunk if you can't take them with you.

Short quote, big lesson

Thumbs Up: We came across a good quote in this month's Editor & Publisher magazine. It's short but gets right to the heart of the matter: "I never lose. I either win or I learn." — Nelson Mandela.

Stress busters

Thumbs Up: The excitement of the holiday season also brings an uninvited guest — stress. Alexandria's United Communities Advocating Non-Violence (UCAN) recently offered a list "stress reducers" to keep in mind. Here's some of them: Pray. Go to bed on time. Get up early so you can start the day unrushed. Say no to projects that won't fit into your time schedule, or that will compromise your mental health. Delegate tasks to capable others. Simplify and unclutter your life. Less is more. (Although one is often not enough, two are often too many.) Allow extra time to do things and to get to places. Pace yourself — spread out big changes and difficult projects over time; don't lump the hard things all together. Take one day at a time.

Separate worries from concerns. If you can't do anything about a situation, forget it. Live within your budget; don't use credit cards for ordinary purchases. Have backups — an extra car key in your wallet, an extra house key buried in the garden, etc. Do something for the kid in you everyday. Laugh and then laugh some more!

Ice gamblers

Thumbs Down: With ice forming on lakes during this month's cold snap, the first "falling through the ice" incident has already been reported in Douglas County. A side-by-side vehicle fell through Lake Osakis while it was plowing an ice rink Nov. 14. Please stay off the ice. Wait until it's at least 4 inches thick and remember, ice is never 100 percent safe. The strength of the ice can't be judged just by its appearance, age, thickness, temperature or whether it's snow-covered. It's based on all those factors plus the depth of water under the ice, the size of the lake, water chemistry and currents, the distribution of the load on the ice and other conditions. Don't put your life — or the lives of rescuers — at risk for a little bit of fun.

Standing up to Big Tobacco

Thumbs Up: Otter Tail County became the first county in Minnesota to raise the legal purchasing age for tobacco products from 18 to 21. The Otter Tail County Board's vote to pass the ordinance, known as Tobacco 21, was unanimous. It was a wise decision — one that 15 Minnesota cities have already made, but not here in Alexandria or Douglas County. Back in February, the Echo Press urged Alexandria to become a Tobacco 21 city. The tobacco industry is aggressively marketing to youth and young adults in order to recruit replacement smokers and guarantee future profits. Tobacco companies in Minnesota spend more than $110.5 million annually on advertising and marketing. It's time to fight back just as aggressively by raising the smoking age to 21. Right now, it's fairly easy for young people who are 16 or 17 to find an 18-year-old to buy them a pack of smokes or e-cigarettes. Making the age 21 would cut into their options, making it more difficult to get the products, especially if store clerks are doing their jobs and carefully checking IDs. Becoming a Tobacco 21 city would send an even stronger message about the dangers of tobacco products in all forms. It's a message that could save countless young people from a lifelong addiction to a product that's responsible for 500,000 deaths in the U.S. every year.

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If you have a suggestion for a Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down, email it to aedenloff@echopress.com or mail it to Echo Press, P.O. Box 549, Alexandria, MN 56308.