South Carolina editorial roundup
Posted July 12
Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:
The Times and Democrat on tobacco use objectives:
A new report concludes the United States is failing to meet its goals in reducing tobacco use.
Action on Smoking and Health bills itself as America's oldest anti-tobacco organization. Founded in 1967, it is dedicated to a world with zero tobacco deaths. Its new report is titled, "Tobacco in America: Leaving the Vulnerable Behind."
While national smoking prevalence has been driven down over the past two decades, the most vulnerable Americans bear a disproportionate share of the costs of tobacco, ASH states. Partly as a result, the United States ranks 43rd in the world in life expectancy, despite spending more than any other country per capita on health.
The new report compares U.S. progress toward implementing measures and reaching global health goals targeting tobacco use. Overall, tobacco remains the leading cause of preventable death in America, accounting for one in five deaths, and costs the U.S. economy more than $300 billion per year.
Nationally, about 15 percent of U.S. adults smoke, down from nearly 50 percent in the 1960s. However, progress has been far from uniform. ASH states that the following demographics smoke at much higher rates:
. Racial minorities like Native Americans.
. Marginalized groups like the LGBT community.
. Those who are less educated or living in poverty.
. Southern and Midwestern states.
The United States is falling behind other countries and is not fully implementing the measures and recommendations included in global health governance mechanisms, the ASH states. As a result, many Americans are not enjoying an equal level of protection experienced by citizens of other countries and will continue to die prematurely because of tobacco related diseases.
Many tobacco-control regulations have been hit or miss. Most regulation is done at the state or local level, and while some states have made it a priority, many have done little or nothing to reduce smoking, according to ASH.
ASH's report urges the country, states, cities and counties to increase their efforts to fight tobacco.
Where the ASH and government, from the national level to local, should not be directing the fight is electronic cigarettes.
Lindsey Stroud, government relations coordinator at The Heartland Institute, notes that not only is the Food and Drug Administration shortsightedly battling e-cigarettes, county health departments around the country are joining in the battle to "demonize devices that can help improve public health."
Stroud points out that research increasingly indicates e-cigarettes and vaping devices are far less harmful than traditional tobacco cigarettes. In 2015, Public Health England found e-cigarettes to be 95 percent safer than cigarettes. The Tobacco Advisory Group of the Royal College of Physicians urges that it is in the "interest of public health" to promote the usage of electronic cigarettes as alternatives to smoking.
"It is of the utmost importance e-cigarettes be treated differently than traditional tobacco products," Stroud said. Though they mimic the sensations of cigarettes, e-cigarettes are tobacco-harm-reduction tools that have proven to be successful in aiding millions of people in their quest to quit smoking.
A study by the Reason Foundation found between 6.1 million and 9.2 million people in the European Union have quit tobacco cigarettes through the use of electronic cigarettes.
Thus in measuring the U.S. commitment to ending tobacco use, the campaign in this country against e-cigarettes cannot be ignored as factor in not meeting goals.
The Aiken Standard on the failure to fulfill the Confederate flag compromise:
It's been a little more than two years since the Confederate battle flag was permanently removed from the South Carolina statehouse grounds, bringing to an end a decades-long effort to lower the flag once and for all.
Reaching this milestone wasn't easy. It came only after hours of exhaustive debate in the state legislature, debate that was sparked following the mass shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, where a self-avowed white supremacist gunned down nine black parishioners in cold blood. Sen. Clementa Pinckney was among those who died.
In the end, lawmakers agreed to remove the flag from Statehouse grounds and place it into a museum. It was a reasonable compromise, one common sense would dictate isn't that difficult to fulfill.
Yet, two years later, the flag is conspicuously absent from the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum in Columbia. We presume it's locked in a closet somewhere, collecting dust.
In an emailed statement to the Aiken Standard, a museum representative said there isn't adequate space or funding to display the flag. The representative said the flag that flew atop the Statehouse dome, and then at ground level on Statehouse grounds, should be displayed separately from numerous other flags (including Confederate flags) already on display.
We find this explanation perplexing. At no point do we recall state lawmakers issuing a mandate to the museum with special instructions on where or how to display it. The only mandate we recall is that it be moved to the Confederate Relic Room.
Perhaps we're missing something with the space and funding argument. Most of us can walk into a local Hobby Lobby, shell out $100 for a nice shadow box and display whatever we want inside. It doesn't matter if it's the Confederate battle flag or a golf course flag. This ought not be a difficult task.
Our call for the museum to get moving on the flag is not an endorsement of it or the values some flag opponents ascribe to it. In fact, in July 2015 front page editorial concerning the flag's removal, we called for healing.
"Whether you supported the flag's removal or not, all sides should accept this outcome and move forward with respect and understanding for each position," the editorial stated.
State lawmakers worked too hard on the compromise that led to the flag's removal. Many probably don't recall how close the state came to not reaching a compromise. Welching on the deal now is a disservice to those discussions.
If indeed space and, particularly, funding are legitimate issues preventing progress on the flag exhibit, we hope the museum will spell out how much it will cost, and provide justification for that cost. If there are truly budgetary constraints, and those constraints are justifiable, then that would become a legislative issue lawmakers overlooked two years ago and should readdress today.
Otherwise, it's time for the compromise reached two years ago to be fulfilled. Rep. Bill Taylor, R-Aiken, is correct when he notes there's an expectation among many constituents to complete the deal and display the flag in a museum. That was our expectation too.
Thirty-nine years passed between when the Confederate flag first flew atop the Statehouse dome in 1961, and when it was lowered in 2000. Another 15 years passed before the flag was removed from Statehouse grounds altogether.
Two more years have passed. It's time for the flag to take its rightful place in the Confederate Relic Room. It's time to move on.
The Post and Courier of Charleston on protecting affordable solar power:
Solar power is having a moment in the sun right now. Last year it overtook all other forms of electricity as the cheapest source of new power generating capacity.
Part of that impressive jump in affordability is due to an ongoing battle between the U.S., China and India to lead in global solar panel manufacturing and exporting.
Unfortunately, the U.S. is struggling in that fight — about 1,200 solar manufacturing jobs were lost, wages declined and production capacity dipped by more than half between 2012 and 2016, according to a Reuters report.
So it's understandable that officials are considering implementing a protective tariff on solar panel imports to try to level the playing field. Boosting U.S. manufacturing is a laudable goal, and a thriving solar industry would potentially help balance out job losses in dirtier energy technologies like coal.
But putting a tariff on solar panels would also risk slowing the expansion of solar power in the country, including here in S.C. where solar power installations increased by almost 300 percent last year, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
Cost plays a big role in that expansion. This year, the tiny town of Cottageville announced plans to go solar in an effort to save money in the municipal budget, for example.
If costs were to rise dramatically, it's likely that new installations would dip in response. In other words, propping up solar panel manufacturing could mean cutting back on solar expansion more broadly.
That would be disappointing.
Solar power offers one of the cleanest ways to generate electricity, taking advantage of the most readily abundant source of energy on earth. It's a perfect fit for sunny places like South Carolina, especially considering that electricity use in the state tends to peak when the weather is the hottest — when the sun is shining.
And zero-emissions energy from solar panels could help slow or mitigate the impacts of climate change, which threatens the S.C. coastline with sea level rise, among other possible effects.
Measurably higher seas are already causing problematic and costly flooding on an increasing number of days each year — at least 50 tidal floods were recorded in downtown Charleston last year, a new record for the city. And scientists overwhelmingly expect that trend to continue unless more aggressive action is taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Solar electricity needs to be a big part of that effort. And its affordability means that shifting to more solar generating capacity can have economic advantages in addition to environmental ones.
But a protective tariff risks undoing that cost-cutting edge.
A healthy environment and affordable, increased electricity generating capacity should be the priority.