Those who seek bans miss important points

As the mother of a young woman who quit smoking by use of an e-cigarette, and as the owner of an e-cigarette company, I feel qualified to offer an opinion on e-cigarette bans.

Those who support a ban may mean well, but they are sadly misinformed. One in five Americans is addicted to smoking, and that percentage, along with an abysmal quit success rate, hasn’t changed in years.

The e-cigarette is finally moving the needle on those numbers. A study reported in JAMA shows the e-cigarette is more effective than nicotine patches in helping people quit smoking or reduce cigarette use. The Royal College of Physicians in Britain and a growing number of doctors back e-cigarettes as a safer alternative to smoking. A major Drexel University study of 9,000 e-cigarette users concluded: “Current data do not indicate that exposures to vapors from contaminants in electronic cigarettes warrant a concern.”

The facts are in our favor, but we face tremendous opposition from tobacco and pharmaceutical companies. It’s a classic case of David vs. Goliath. We need more “Davids” to join the fight — because if Goliath wins, the biggest losers are smokers, who will continue to die at the rate of 450,000 a year from smoking-related diseases.

MARIA VERVEN, Golden Valley



Awfully hard to trust long-term promises

As the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources solicits public commentary on the proposed PolyMet mine project, I hope readers noticed the irony of a Jan. 15 article regarding the decades-old project to clean up a former industrial site (“U.S. Borax to pay $1.25 million to clean up Mpls. arsenic”).

The proposed copper-nickel project in northeastern Minnesota is expected to have an economically useful life of approximately 20 years and create several hundred sustainable jobs during that period. An environmental-impact statement suggests that the projected risk of toxic runoff might extend for 200 years after the end of ore extraction.

The Borax story noted that all the primary companies involved in the arsenic case have long since gone defunct, leaving the public and state government with an open-ended economic obligation for the cleanup required.

I cannot be the only person who sees the similarities between the PolyMet and Borax situations.

I acknowledge that the state of environmental knowledge circa 1938, when the arsenic situation apparently began, was substantially lower than it is today. I have zero confidence that even the best intentions of PolyMet, the DNR and the supporters of the mining project can accurately anticipate a 200-year time horizon. I urge the DNR to require a full performance bond and carry forward liability for successor corporations.

Brad Shinkle, Minnetonka

• • •

Those pushing for approval of the PolyMet proposal might be interested in our experience with Essar Steel, which is developing a taconite mine at Nashwauk, Minn., and whose parent company is headquartered in India.

With great fanfare in September 2008, Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Iron Range politicians and businessmen, and Essar officers broke ground for construction of a promised taconite mine in combination with what would be the first steel mill ever to be built on the Range. The mine was forecast by the company to be in production by 2012, with the mill to come shortly thereafter.

The state and Itasca County invested well more than $50 million in infrastructure. Minnesota Power and Light made infrastructure investment as well.

Now Essar is projecting that production may not start even in 2015, but it has signed an agreement with Cliffs Natural Resources to provide taconite pellets to its Essar Steel Algoma in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, into 2017 and beyond. Incidentally, Algoma’s debt is rated at a junk-bond level and has recently been on a credit watch. And the reason Essar gives for not proceeding into taconite production at Nashwauk is inability to get financing. The steel mill is no longer mentioned.

PolyMet is a foreign company that is infinitesimal compared with Essar Holdings. When and if propitious, it could be sold to a buyer that would be responsible for future cleanup and remediation. And might that not be a foreign company that would have little interest in the future of the Boundary Waters area of Minnesota?




Life is duller than fiction

I got a kick out of the Jan. 24 letter about inaccuracies in historical movies. After reading about the real stories behind recent films, let’s just say thank goodness for dramatic license. Without it, I can only imagine what we’d be treated to at the multiplex: “Watching Paint Dry” … the IMAX experience! “Lee Daniels’ The Accountant” … he turned despair into deductions! And, of course, “Congress: The Movie” (no tagline necessary).

JOE SADOWSKI, Minneapolis

• • •

Citing the history behind “12 Years A Slave,” the letter stated that “one slave owner, William Ford, was definitely not a cruel man.”





A caption on page A15 Friday incorrectly attributed the painting “Treaty of Traverse des Sioux.” It was painted by Francis D. Millet.