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Smokers need help to quit

Good idea or a step too far in hiring? | June 25, Sue Carlton column

Give smokers help needed to quit As a family physician who has extensively studied the effects of smoking and nicotine addiction, I feel an obligation to weigh in on the personal and economic implications of smoking cessation as Times readers consider the situation in Pasco County, where government is considering a policy of hiring only nonsmokers.

In Florida alone, smoking costs our economy $20-billion a year in disease treatment and lost productivity, according to a recent study by the Washington Economics group. Providing comprehensive smoking cessation coverage would save our businesses and health plans nearly $400-million a year, and yet we continue to expect smokers to be able to overcome the grip of nicotine addiction by sheer willpower alone.

Businesses and organizations considering adopting similar hiring practices must realize that nicotine addiction from smoking is a chronic, relapsing medical condition, not simply a habit or personal choice. It is imperative to follow the guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and work closely with your family physician to maximize your chances of quitting successfully.

Unfortunately, few people have access to smoking cessation treatments, as these treatments are not regularly covered through their private insurance plans. We must make every effort to make more resources available to help Floridians quit smoking. The CDC recommends that smoking cessation coverage include counseling sessions, along with all FDA-approved prescription medications and nicotine replacement therapy.

Without these tools and resources, only 5 percent of the people who attempt to quit will successfully overcome their addiction. Simply telling smokers to quit is costing everyone money and it's costing smokers their lives. Help the smoker and everyone will reap the benefits.

John A. Gross, MD, board member, Florida Academy of Family Physicians, St. Petersburg Drug policy wastes billions | June 28, letter

Legalizing drugs is no solution

If anyone thinks that legalizing drugs is the solution, consider the following:

1. The fact that alcohol is legal does not mean that people do not abuse it by using it in excess. There is also underage drinking, and thousands of lives are lost every year due to alcohol accidents. Also moonshiners and bootleggers have not been eliminated even though alcohol is legal.

2. If drugs that are illegal become legalized, we will likely see an increase in abuse. Also, even if these drugs were taxed, would it be enough to pay for the extra legislation and manpower required? If illegal drugs were used as widely as alcohol is now, we would most likely have more deaths and injuries resulting from misuse.

3. Before we even consider legalizing these drugs, we should ask ourselves if we would want a close family member or friend to use these drugs even in small doses.

Granted illegal drug use has not been eliminated, but I say that the answer is to continue educating everyone, especially children about the harmful effects that these drugs have and to provide alternatives for them. If fewer people buy drugs in the first place, that may discourage would-be pushers. I for one am thankful that I was educated in the dangers of illegal drugs and as a result I never used them.

Carl E. Graham, Largo

U.S. Sugar buyout offer

What a deal

Okay, let me get this right. The government builds the dike around Lake Okeechobee so that U.S. Sugar Corp.'s land south of the lake does not flood. The government then subsidizes the price of sugar to increase U.S. Sugar's profits. Finally, after years of U.S. Sugar's polluting the land, the government then offers to pay the company $1.75-billion for the land so the government then can spend billions more to clean it up.

It seems to me that U.S. Sugar owes the American taxpayer billions of dollars, not the other way around.

Richard Feigel, Clearwater

Avoid the hate speech

I would like to thank the St. Petersburg Times and the other local news media for their impressive coverage of this past weekend's gay pride event. The coverage on the whole was positive and presented our community as the diverse and vibrant community that it is.

However, there is one dramatic portion of your coverage that I find disturbing: The comments of the extremists protesting the event were included. I am sure the editors decided to include these comments as an attempt to provide balance to their articles.

Would these same editors publish the comments of the Ku Klux Klan or the Aryan Brotherhood in their coverage of a Martin Luther King Day parade? Of course they wouldn't! They would view these comments as hate speech and refuse to provide legitimacy to such statements.

The comments of the small group of protesters, which gives support and credence to violence against gays and lesbians, is hate speech in its purist form.

I hope that next year the coverage of the gay pride event by your paper and other media outlets will continue to be positive and highlight the contributions we make. I also hope you will recognize the hate speech that you have published and cease to give this form of religious extremism any legitimacy.

Edward Briggs, St. Petersburg

Dangers of guns | June 29, letter

In defense of good

The only "gun nuts" out here are those who would rob you at gunpoint. Most of us are law-abiding people.

Do bad things happen? Are there accidents? Do people die crossing streets? Do people have road rage? Should we then ban cars? Accidents do happen. People do snap. Would banning guns prevent either? If someone snaps, they will strike out with whatever they have, be it a knife, rope or baseball bat. Taking guns away from the good guys leaves the bad guys in charge.

I read about two towns with similar populations and crime rates. One town banned guns, the other passed an ordinance that every head of household had to own a gun. The crime rate went up in the town with no guns and down in the town where every household had a gun.

It's like the playground bully. He doesn't want to get hurt, so he only bullies those who won't fight back. Bad guys with guns will avoid good guys with guns!

Patrick W. Brown, Tampa

Florida Marine dies in Afghanistan | June 27

Honor the sacrifice

I'm very disappointed that notice of the passing of one of our service members was relegated to Page 9B. At the very least, the death of Staff Sgt. Christopher D. Strickland of Labelle should have been front and center on Page 1A, or at least on Page 1B.

I am a patriotic veteran who was against our entry into these Mideast wars from the start. However, now that we are there, we can't let our citizens (and politicians) forget the price that our service members and their families and friends are paying.

Robert W. Blatt, Clearwater

Smokers need help to quit 06/30/08 [Last modified: Friday, July 4, 2008 1:28pm]
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