TOBACCO, LITTLE CIGARS

The fight for clean air is a fight for our health

Those who deplore the smoking of tobacco and those who deplore taxes are maintaining a vigorous fight.

Championing the former, our Hennepin County Board contrives a disingenuous push to eliminate smoking on its grounds, including within employees' own cars.

Representing the latter, tobacco companies try an end-run around the higher tax on cigarettes through deceitfully crafting "little cigars" ("A cigarette in all but its name," editorial, Feb. 22).

Why can't we insist on respect for the spirit of the laws we enact through our representatives?

In this case we look to protect others from secondhand smoke, then to provide dollars for health and education, much of it related to damage caused by tobacco.

Taxing cigars at a lower rate than cigarettes flies in the face of logic.

 Both contain toxins harmful to the user and to those who must endure secondhand smoke. Tax them equally and eliminate the game-playing.

SHAWN GILBERT, BLOOMINGTON

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The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would have dire consequences for all Americans, especially those with diseases such as lung cancer, asthma and emphysema.

The bill in its current form is toxic to public health. It would cut funding for a number of programs that ensure health.

Our congressional leaders must recognize that tough fiscal choices can be made without jeopardizing Americans.

ROBERT MOFFITT, Blaine

MICHELLE OBAMA

Petty criticisms, from breast pumps to diet

It seems that Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann are all criticizing Michelle Obama for not being the perfect eater, even though she speaks against obesity. Talk about hypocrisy!

Before Rush Limbaugh was busted for illegally obtaining and using drugs, he wanted to lock drug users in prison and throw away the key.

Palin was all for a bridge to nowhere as long as federal money came to her state.

The Bachmann clan dipped into the public trough of farm subsidies before voting against like payments that two black farmers were wrongly denied.

MARK VERONEN, PONSFORD, MINN.

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The First Lady cites research that says breast-fed babies are less likely to become obese.

Most of us have heard that "breast is best," but until we as a society accept breast-feeding mothers, no amount of incentives will significantly change the percentages of women who choose either breast- or bottle-feeding.

Women who breast-feed in public still face discrimination and harassment, even though the practice is legal.

JESSAMYN ALDRICH, EDEN PRAIRIE

• • •

Where has all of the respect gone?

The First Lady can't even offer her opinion about breast-feeding without being blasted by the likes of Bachmann and Palin. How petty and small!

I'm convinced that if anyone in the White House stated a preference for skim milk, they'd be blasted, too.

Apparently, these two politicians can't be civil or respectful of the First Lady. Shame on them.

MIKE MCDONALD, ST. PAUL

Pay equity

Quit griping, women -- men deserve more

Does Lori Sturdevant not realize that men work the vast majority of dangerous jobs ("Gosh, you'd think the pay equity issue was solved," Feb. 20)?

They also work the majority of jobs that are physically crippling.

Men pay more than women in alimony and child support. They receive little or no recognition of their rights as parents. Men also work themselves into an early grave for their wives and kids.

I don't call that being privileged.

JONATHAN WITKUS, RICHMOND, WIS.

Mental illness

Too little help makes problems worse

The Feb. 20 article "Dangerous on the run, pursued by no one" highlighted the gap between law enforcement and the mental health system. But there's also a gap between hospital discharges and community treatment for people afflicted with mental illness.

Currently, hospital stays for the mentally ill are not long enough for them to develop skills and habits to function well. Additionally, outpatient programs don't provide the structure and protection needed for many discharged mentally ill people.

Frustrated family members are unable to help, as legal roadblocks don't allow treatment for the people with severe mental illnesses until it is too late.

Then, tragedy or violence finds their family member caught up in the correctional system at great taxpayer expense and with little or no medical recovery.

LYNDA CANNOVA, MINNEAPOLIS

TOM HORNER

He shouldn't criticize the governor's budget

Former Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner shouldn't criticize Mark Dayton's budget ("The Dayton budget is doomed," Feb. 20).

Thanks to his vote-splitting last fall (particularly among Democrats), Tom Emmer almost became governor.

 Had that been the case, we would have had a Wisconsin-like situation, since Emmer's and Gov. Scott Walker's proposals were similar.

WILLIAM CORY LABOVITCH, SOUTH ST. PAUL