Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:
The Houma Courier on the Centers for Disease Control's warning about vaping and e-cigarette use:
Health officials, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are urging people to avoid vaping until authorities can determine what's behind a life-threatening condition associated with the products.
At least three Americans have died from so-called "vaping illness," and officials are reviewing more than 450 possible cases across 33 states, including nine reported in Louisiana over the past two weeks.
"As the word gets out more, we anticipate that we'll have more cases reported to us," Dr. Joseph Kanter, assistant state health officer at the Department of Health, told The Advocate newspaper in a story reprinted in The Courier and Daily Comet.
The lung ailment's symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, fever and weight loss, the story notes. State officials advised doctors to ask all patients who report using e-cigarettes within the past 90 days about signs and symptoms. And those who using vaping products and experience symptoms should see a doctor.
Meanwhile, the CDC's message is clear.
"Until we have a cause and while this investigation is ongoing, we're recommending individuals consider not using e-cigarettes," Dana Meaney-Delman, who is overseeing the agency's response, told CBS News. "As more information comes about and we can narrow down the specific e-cigarette products, we intend to revise that."
A story about the development was one of the most popular on The Courier and Daily Comet's Facebook pages last week. Several readers posted that they have been using vaping products without any problems.
"Meanwhile, 6,500 people die each year from smoking-related illnesses in Louisiana," one person commented. "This is small potatoes. Just fearmongering from the tobacco industry to protect their profits. Everything you do carries risk. Still much safer than smoking."
Inhaling almost any foreign substance comes with a risk, and you'll find plenty of health experts who will advise against doing it at all.
At this point, no definitive link has been proven between vaping and these mysterious illnesses. But health experts note that the evidence is sufficient for concern. Just how much of a concern is a decision those who use these products now have to make.
The Advocate on Walmart enacting a new gun policy in response to the mass shooting at one of its stores:
When Walmart speaks, people listen. So when executives at the giant retailer recently asked customers to no longer openly display their guns on the premises, lots of people took notice.
Walmart can hardly be stereotyped as a bastion of coastal elites. CEO Doug McMillon's memo announcing the policy noted that the store has a long heritage of "serving responsible hunters and sportsmen and women" and will continue to do so.
Successful retailers are sensitive to the marketplace. If Walmart officials are listening to their customers, then those customers are as likely to live in places such as Texas and Mississippi and Louisiana as in New York or California.
It was in El Paso, Texas, of course, where 22 people were shot dead inside one of the company's stores on a busy August Saturday. It was in Southaven, Mississippi, where two associates were recently killed by a suspended co-worker.
And it was in Baton Rouge that a fight between two customers, one armed with a gun and one with scissors, set off a frantic scene and rumors of yet another active shooter situation. It turned out that nobody was shot, thankfully, but the situation was terrifying, and the panic was itself dangerous.
The new policy is not a hard ban but a respectful request, as the company put it, that customers in open carry states no longer carry firearms into Walmart and Sam's Club stores unless they're authorized law enforcement officers.
In a memo, McMillon cited the proliferation of mass shootings and concerns from both customers and employees, and also the fact that some customers have taken to "attempting to make a statement and test our response" by going into stores carrying weapons "in a way that frightened or concerned our associates and customers." Others with less confrontational objectives have inadvertently prompted evacuations and calls to law enforcement, he wrote.
"We believe the opportunity for someone to misinterpret a situation, even in open carry states, could lead to tragic results," McMillon wrote.
We've supported sensible measures to combat gun violence, including the lapsed federal ban on assault-style weapons. Walmart too has been seeking balance; it previously stopped selling military-style rifles and handguns, raised the age limit to purchase firearms and slightly tightened background check procedures. McMillon also recently announced that Walmart would stop selling certain types of ammunition that can be used in large-capacity clips on military-style weapons, as well as ammunition for handguns.
Walmart's move doesn't endanger the Second Amendment because other retailers are free to sell legal ammo. We hope Louisiana's politicians don't overreact, as a number of them did when they banned certain banks from state bond sale business because of the banks' policies on guns. Members of the public can decide for themselves whether they are comfortable with Walmart's practices.
McMillon concluded his memo by pointing out that "the status quo is unacceptable." Hopefully people on both sides of the gun divide can agree on that.
The (Lake Charles) American Press on a speed limit reduction to combat accidents on a stretch of Louisiana interstate:
A multi-vehicle accident on the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge on Interstate 10 that resulted in one death and five injuries has state transportation officials studying the possibility of lowering the speed limit there. Former Gov. Mike Foster lowered the basin bridge speed limit from 70 mph to 60 mph in 1998 because of a series of accidents. Large truck speed was reduced to 55 mph in 2003.
Shawn Wilson, secretary of the state Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD), told The Advocate, "We want to make an informed decision. We are just not sure what that is yet. We are going to look at this particular incident because it is an extreme incident and understand what is the cause of the accident."
State Sen. Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, said, "We have to do better. Whatever we are doing is not working with regards to either to monitoring or speed limits or a combination of all of those things."
The newspaper said DOTD reported the basin bridge has been the site of 1,183 accidents since 2014, including 13 fatalities. One of the fatalities was a pedestrian. Total accidents rose in 2018 by 12 percent over the previous year, and 30 percent since 2014, on the roughly 17-mile stretch through St. Martin and Iberville parishes.
A State Police preliminary investigation said after an initial crash, westbound traffic slowed for the incident, and then three 18-wheelers and several passenger vehicles were involved in a chain-reaction crash.
Cortez said, "Inevitably, it is 18-wheelers. We need to demand some type of action with 18-wheelers, reduced speed or something."
Wilson said more time is needed because sometimes lower speed limits could also be the cause of additional accidents. About 55,000 cars and trucks use the bridge daily. Big trucks are already required to stay in the right lane while crossing the bridge.
State Rep. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia, and chairman of the House Transportation Committee, was superintendent of State Police when the 1998 accidents occurred and the speed limit was reduced. He said a lower speed had a significant impact on the number of crashes.
Traffic on the basin bridge has gotten heavier over the years. Some motorists familiar with the route have complained that speed limits are not enforced enough, and that results in hazardous driving and dangerous passing habits. Road construction on both sides of the bridge has also increased the number of accidents.
Wilson is probably correct when he says nothing should be done quickly, but we hope everyone involved in making a decision doesn't take too much time to do something.