Hawaii Raises Smoking Age to 21; Military Supports New Law

Compliments of Denver and The West 

Hawaii is raising the legal smoking to age 21 for traditional and electronic cigarettes on Jan. 1, becoming the first state in the nation to do so.

Public health officials are hoping that by making it more difficult for young people to get their hands on cigarettes, they will keep them from developing an unhealthy addiction.

“In Hawaii, about one in four students in high school try their first cigarette each year, and one in three who get hooked will die prematurely,” said Lola Irvin, administrator with the chronic disease prevention and health promotion division of the Hawaii Department of Health.

Officials included electronic smoking devices in the law after noticing a spike in the number of students trying electronic cigarettes. The percentage of Hawaii public high school students smoking electronic cigarettes quadrupled over four years to 22 percent in 2015, and among middle-schoolers, 12 percent reported using them in 2015, a sixfold increase over four years.

While Hawaii is the first state to raise the smoking age to 21, more than 100 cities and counties have already done so, including New York City. The town of Needham, Massachusetts, raised the smoking age to 21 in 2005, and a decade later the percentage of adults smoking was 50 percent lower than the rest of the state.

Several military bases in Hawaii expressed their support for the move, saying their bases would comply with the state law.

“We see it as a fitness and readiness issue,” said Bill Doughty, spokesman for the Navy Region Hawaii. “When we can prevent sailors from smoking or using tobacco, if we can get them to quit, then that improves their fitness and readiness, and it saves them a ton of money too.”

But critics say that if a man or woman is old enough to potentially die defending their country, they’re old enough to make a decision about smoking. “If you can serve the country, you should be able to have a drink and a cigarette,” said Justin Warren, 22, an X-ray technician in the Army.

Taylor Dwyer, 21, also an Army X-ray technician, said smoking is a “way for us to come down after the work day. It’s not like a regular work day. It’s a lot more stressful, especially for people who are in combat jobs.”

Rear Adm. John Fuller, commander of Navy Region Hawaii, countered those arguments in a blog post, saying “If someone is young enough to fight for their country, they should be free from addiction to a deadly drug.”

As the state begins enforcing the law, the first three months of the year will be dedicated to educating the public, so warnings will be handed out instead of fines, officials said.

After that, young people caught smoking will be fined $10 for the first offense and $50 or community service for any further offenses. Retailers caught selling cigarettes to people under 21 can be fined $500 for the first offense and up to $2,000 for later offenses.

The Health Department has distributed about 4,000 signs to 650 vendors, said Lila Johnson, public health educator at the agency. To reach tourists, officials have been meeting with representatives from the tourism industry, business and hotels, and officials plan to produce signs in different languages, she said.

“People are going to be coming in and out of our state that aren’t aware of it,” Johnson said. “It’s a matter of education. We hope to see a lot more states picking it up so we’re not the only one.”

Sabrina Olaes, 18, said she started organizing events to educate her classmates about the dangers of smoking after getting frustrated finding herself surrounded by fumes from electronic cigarettes in the girl’s bathroom at her school.

She called the tobacco industry’s marketing practices deceptive, and said some of the flavors of electronic cigarettes are targeted at young people. But her smoking friends didn’t always want to hear what she had to say.

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Death of Man Restrained at a D.C. Hospital Ruled a Homicide

Compliments of Washington Post 

The death of a 74-year-old man who suffered neck injuries during a struggle with security guards last fall at MedStar Washington Hospital Center has been ruled a homicide, authorities said Monday.

James E. McBride, who had been a patient, was restrained by guards who were trying to bring him back to the hospital after he left without signing out on Sept. 29. He died two days later.

The D.C. medical examiner’s office said Monday that McBride’s cause of death was “blunt force injuries” of the neck. It also said the injuries involved “cervical spinal cord transection” and “vertebral artery compression.” They did not offer a further explanation.

D.C. police officials said they continue to investigate the death but they declined to comment further. Bill Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in the District, said Monday that there is an ongoing investigation into the case. He said no charges have been filed.

Family members previously issued a statement saying McBride, who lived in Northwest Washington, was a “loving husband to his wife of 40 years, and a wonderful father to his son and daughter.” Family members could not be reached Monday.

In a statement released Monday, the hospital said the incident “was devastating to all of us at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, and our hearts continue to go out to the patient’s family.” The statement said the hospital is cooperating with authorities.

Hospital officials also said in the statement that reviews conducted after the incident have led to changes including enhancing training of care teams and security officers. They also created a team to respond to some “high-risk” situations.

The hospital said the reviews “were focused on ensuring that nothing like this ever happens again.”

The incident began about 5 p.m. Sept. 29 when McBride left the hospital, Washington Hospital Center officials said. They would not say why McBride was at the hospital.

The patient’s nurse and a security guard found him across the street, near MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital, according to hospital officials. The nurse and guard walked the man back to the hospital grounds and turned him over to two other security guards.

A police report said the patient and guards were still outside the hospital when McBride “became non-compliant and resisted and a struggle ensued.” According to that report, McBride was “taken to the ground” by two of the people, and a third “utilized hand controls to restrain” him.

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Why The U.S. Does not Count Meat Producers’ Climate Emissions

Compliments of Grist 

If the Paris climate pact is going to succeed at staving off climate change disaster, the 195 participating countries will need to achieve a difficult feat — trust.

Yet the U.S. government already is failing to implement its own rules on tracking emissions. It is not collecting emission reports from one of the country’s largest sources of greenhouse gases: meat production.

In its latest appropriations bill passed Friday, Congress renewed a provision that prevents the Environmental Protection Agency from requiring emission reports from livestock producers. The move came only days after U.S. officials stressed to other governments the importance of accurate reporting at the Paris climate negotiations.

The U.S. government collects the reports from 41 other sectors, making the meat industry the only major source of greenhouse gases in the country excluded from filing annual reports.

Livestock producers, which include meat and dairy farming, account for about 15 percent of greenhouse gas emissions around the world. That’s more than all the world’s exhaust-belching cars, buses, boats, and trains combined.

The EPA has called the emission reports “essential in guiding the steps we take to address the problem of climate change.”

As a result of having inadequate information on livestock producers, the U.S. government is vastly underreporting its true greenhouse gas emissions, according to a growing consensus of American scientists.

In 2013, a team of researchers from Harvard University, Stanford University, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and elsewhere worked together to collect air samples and analyze actual emissions near large livestock operations such as cattle feeding lots in California, Nebraska, and Iowa. They found that greenhouse gas emissions from livestock were twice as bad as what the EPA estimated. Subsequent studies have found similar results.

The United States is underreporting its total greenhouse gas emissions to the United Nations by about 4 percent per year as a result of bad livestock data — nearly equivalent to the entire emissions of Spain, according to the 2013 study.

The EPA’s ban on collecting reports from the U.S. livestock industry, which is the second-largest in the world behind only China, goes back several years.

In 2008, Congress instructed the EPA to draft regulation requiring the country’s largest greenhouse gas emitters to file annual reports. The following year, the EPA finalized those regulations, requiring dozens of industries — including large-scale livestock producers — to report their emissions.

But the EPA never received a single report from meat producers. In 2010, when the first reports were to be collected, Congress attached a provision to the EPA’s budget. It prohibited the agency from spending money to collect emission reports on livestock producers — specifically the greenhouse gases emitted from some of the 335 million tons of manure produced each year.

Monitoring and curbing greenhouse gases from livestock is considered vital to stopping global warming, according to scientists.

A recent report published in the Environmental Law Reporter cited several studies showing that forecasted growth in worldwide agricultural emissions alone — unless curbed — will push global temperatures past the tipping point.

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