Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

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Sept. 11

The Greenwood Commonwealth on the health risks of vaping and e-cigarette use:

Either through intentional or subliminal marketing, the manufacturers of e-cigarettes have been touting them as safer alternatives to the real thing.

And they may be, but how much safer has come into question with the recent national outbreak of breathing illnesses related to vaping.

According to a report late last week from The Associated Press, U.S. health officials have identified about 450 possible cases of lung illness, including five deaths, where the one common denominator appears to be that the victim had vaped within the past three months.

Symptoms have included shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain and vomiting — just about what you'd expect when someone inhales a caustic substance.

Health officials are urging people to stop vaping until the medical community can figure out what might be going on. It has been suggested that the problem may be related to people using these electronic devices in ways for which they were not intended — for example, as a delivery mechanism for marijuana or its derivatives. But this theory has holes, too, as some of those who have been struck ill said they only vaped nicotine.

Telling people to stop vaping is easier said than done, however, if they have already become hooked on nicotine, one of the more addictive substances known to man. Particularly disconcerting has been the rapidly rising number of minors who have taken up vaping — apparently because it's so easy to conceal the devices in a pocket or a purse. Even though it's illegal for a retailer to sell anyone under the age of 18 e-cigarettes, obviously under-age vapers have a way to get their hands on them, just as under-age smokers have for decades with traditional cigarettes.

Telling people who vape to stop is like telling people who smoke to stop. Even though they may know the habit is bad for them, the craving inside their brain for the nicotine is far more powerful than reason.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has had the authority since 2016 to regulate e-cigarettes, is turning up pressure on the dominant player in the business, Juul. On Monday, it ordered the company to stop making unproven claims for its products, including that they are "much safer than cigarettes."

In the meantime, the best advice to young people about electronic cigarettes is the same as it has been for traditional ones. Don't start.

It's easy to get hooked, and it's a bear to get unhooked. Heavy concentrations of nicotine, no matter how it is being delivered, are not good for the human brain, particularly a developing one.

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Sept. 10

The (Tupelo) Daily Journal on an effort to increase Mississippi children's access to books:

One of the most successful ways to improve the reading achievement of children is to increase their access to books, especially at home, so it is encouraging to see more and more Little Free Libraries appearing throughout Northeast Mississippi.

Small community libraries like these have been growing in popularity over the last few years, due in large part to the efforts of national nonprofit Little Free Library. Founded in 2009, Little Free Library has registered more than 90,000 book-sharing boxes in 91 countries worldwide.

Little Free Libraries provide 24/7 access to books, increasing access to books for readers of all ages and backgrounds and encouraging a love of reading. The Little Free Library organization's map shows these important libraries in Alcorn, Itawamba, Lafayette, Lee, Pontotoc and Union counties (visit https://littlefreelibrary.org/ourmap/ for specific locations.

Most recently, the Lee County Library and the Tupelo Parks and Recreation Department in partnership with the Friends of the Lee County Library opened Little Free Libraries located at two city parks, Gumtree Park and Robins Field.

"Our Parks and Recreation Department . keep us all engaged, provide opportunities for us to learn new things, and improve our quality of life. We are all on the same mission — to make Tupelo and Lee County the best place to live. I think these Little Free Libraries will help Park & Rec and the Library to impact people's lives for the better," said Lee County Library Director Jeff Tomlinson during the dedication ceremony for the little libraries.

Last year, as part of a project through the Itawamba County Development Council's ongoing Junior Leadership Program, five Itawamba Agricultural High School students designed nine small libraries and placed them in high-traffic areas throughout the county to encourage literacy for children. The group collected more than 500 books, mostly aimed at elementary-aged readers, to fill their small libraries.

Research has shown that children growing up in homes without books are on average academically three years behind children in homes with lots of books. For various reasons, some families do not have books at home or easy access to finding reading material for their children.

Little Free Libraries belong to everybody and provide a chance for readers to share their passion for books with others in their communities. It's basically a "pay it forward" program — Take a book, share a book, give books.

Reading can give incomparable pleasure and you can't put a price tag on its value. These projects promote literacy and build community. And in the end, hopefully spark a lifelong love of reading.

"Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers." - Charles William Eliot

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Sept. 6

The Enterprise-Journal on the state Supreme Court's recent ruling on charter schools:

The Mississippi Supreme Court has cleared the way for charter schools to continue operating in the state, ruling that using local property taxes to pay for the schools is constitutional.

Charter school critics contended these payments violated the state Constitution by forcing public school districts to share tax revenue with schools that it did not control.

A majority of the court disagreed. But funding is not the biggest problem facing charter schools in Mississippi.

The larger issues are figuring out how to get more charters opened in the rural areas that could benefit from them, and then getting the test scores of charter students measurably higher than children in public schools.

Right now Mississippi has six charter schools, five in Jackson and one in Clarksdale. The state board that supervises the schools has rejected a number of other applicants, including several from small towns. The board is right to be selective, putting the burden where it belongs — on those who want to open schools.

As for test scores, most charter schools are average or below average. Their goal of helping children who most need it has not been met.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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