It’s time to raise the N.C. smoking age

The Observer editorial board

A North Carolina bill would raise the age to buy tobacco and vaping products to 21.
A North Carolina bill would raise the age to buy tobacco and vaping products to 21. TNS

From an editorial Friday in the Winston-Salem Journal:

A bill in the state House that would raise the age of smoking and vaping to 21 is timely and welcome.

House Bill 435 is being moved by a bipartisan group of legislators led by Rep. Donny Lambeth, the Journal’s Richard Craver reported earlier this week.

The bill covers smoking, as well as electronic cigarettes, vaporizers and cigarette wrapping papers. It carves out an exemption for active military personnel and contains a grandfather clause for those born in 1998 and 1999, the Journal reported. It would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2021, after which all consumers would have to be at least 21 to purchase those products.

Tobacco, though it’s no longer the all-encompassing industry it once was, can still be a heated topic in North Carolina. Many in our area have fond memories of working for the reliable R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and built their lives on its good-paying jobs.

But the health risks of tobacco are undeniable, as is the addictive nature of nicotine. Many start smoking thinking they can quit whenever they want, but it’s rarely that easy.

Reynolds American, rooted in RJR Tobacco, has for years been concentrating on vaping and other products with fewer risks.

Studies show vaping to be somewhat safer, but it’s still smoking and still carries risks. Pushing the age limit higher may help prevent problems later.

Not so fast on NCAA’s return

From an editorial Wednesday in the Fayetteville Observer:

If you’re looking for a lesson in sugar-coating a pickle, we’d suggest you take a look at the statement Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore released Tuesday after the NCAA agreed to consider North Carolina for future tournaments and championship games.

Here’s what they said: “We are pleased with the NCAA’s decision and acknowledgment that our compromise legislation ‘restores the state to … a landscape similar to other jurisdictions presently hosting NCAA championships.’”

We don’t want to rain on the lawmakers’ victory parade, but we need to point out that the NCAA Board of Governors said it “reluctantly voted to allow consideration of championship bids in North Carolina by our committees that are presently meeting.”

It wasn’t just reluctant. It was also conditional. The replacement legislation, House Bill 142, “minimally achieved a situation where we believe NCAA championships may be conducted in a nondiscriminatory environment,” the collegiate athletic sanctioning group said.

But that doesn’t mean a free pass for future tournaments. Any North Carolina site that is awarded a championship event, the NCAA said, must “submit documentation demonstrating how student athletes and fans will be protected from discrimination.” Since the discrimination the NCAA is talking about includes denying equal treatment to members of the LGBT community, does anyone see a problem developing right away?

Fight back, cities

From an editorial Tuesday in the (Greensboro) News & Record:

The legislature has bullied cities and counties across the state since Republicans took control in 2011. The best way to deal with a bully is to stand up to him.

When the legislature passed House Bill 263 in 2015, Greensboro refused to knuckle under. Its resistance led to a significant victory in federal court Monday, as Judge Catherine Eagles ruled that the legislative dictate violates the Constitution by making some votes more powerful than others and “is not directed or rationally related to any identifiable legitimate governmental purpose.”

Most measures exerting state authority over local matters pass with little trouble. Other cities and counties have gotten the same treatment. The legislature has overridden local control over environmental issues, rental housing regulation, firearms and billboards. It enacted measures to take Charlotte’s airport and Asheville’s water system.

Some cities have resisted and won victories. Charlotte still has its airport and Asheville still has its water system. Greensboro sued to block HB 263 and won a stay before the 2015 city elections.

The people should choose their form of government. It shouldn’t be imposed from afar. It’s just a shame that Greensboro had to spend so much time and money to re-establish that principle.