Kudos to the Edina City Council! ("Smoking age could rise to 21 in Edina," March 9).

The U.S. surgeon general reports that smoking deaths in our nation still exceed half a million a year. Taxes on cigarettes now generate more revenue to the government than profits to the tobacco companies. Effectively this makes government a co-conspirator and beneficiary in the misery, disease and deaths of millions of Americans. Of course, the pious argument is that the government is trying to discourage smoking by making it expensive. In truth, addicts will spend what is necessary for their next fix.

More than 40,000 Americans die each year from secondhand smoke. If that number were dying from avocados, do you think avocados would be sold in our local stores?

Essentially we have legalized manslaughter with the faux argument of freedom of choice and under the historic, corrupting influence of corporate money. As the economic vultures and drug dealers they are, tobacco companies still intentionally target the young for addiction and, coincidentally, disease and early deaths.

It is refreshing to see Edina standing up for its youngsters.

Thomas Evans, Bemidji, Minn.

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Dear Edina,

So you believe that 18-year-olds can join the armed services and even die for their country, but they shouldn't be allowed to buy cigarettes? They can vote for president, but they can't buy cigarettes? They can get married, but they can't buy cigarettes?

You may want to ponder these questions before you pass an inane law.

Sharon Waller, Minneapolis

The rush is on, with disregard to the real impact it will have

The new American Health Care Act that House Speaker Paul Ryan says he has been working on for eight years is now in view. For something which took so long to write, it sure has its share of critics. Health care is complicated. Who knew?

So, that said, why did the first committee considering it meet for nearly 24 hours? Why are lawmakers in such a rush to push it through to a vote? The Affordable Care Act took months to consider before approval. I vividly remember the session that President Obama held with congressional critics at which he responded to all of their questions directly in the same room, televised live. Will President Trump engage in such an exchange? Or Ryan? Probably not. I am sure we will see a lot of surrogates propagandizing, though.

It just seems so cynical to push through something so important that will affect so many people. There are statements of support from Minnesota Republican members of Congress, objections from Republican state legislators and loud objections from Democrats and many interested groups. There is no assessment of the full impact from the Congressional Budget Office. There clearly is not consensus or full knowledge of the impact, and that time for consideration is critically needed.

The only reason to go fast that one can determine is that the Republican lawmakers feel obligated to carry out a political promise, without consideration of the severe impact it will have on the lives of real people. It is very sad.

Gary Fifield, St. Paul

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The March 9 editorial ("Harsh reality sets in for GOP health plan") was spot-on when it cautioned that "there are enough details known about the AHCA to draw some disturbing conclusions" and that "it falls well short of meeting the high expectations created by Republicans." The legislation is really a giant tax cut for some people and corporations, and a significant cut in meeting the needs of others, including the vulnerable people who are currently on Medicaid. I am disappointed with my congressman, Rep. Erik Paulsen, who was quoted in a news article the same day ("Both sides take issue with GOP health care bill") as saying that the new legislation "will help American families have access to high-quality health care." He is confusing "access" with "affordable" and trying to put lipstick on a pig. We need him and other supporters of the legislation to explain why decreased coverage, and higher costs for seniors and others, are "improvements" on the ACA.

Mary Yee, Edina

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With all that has been written comparing the Affordable Care Act (to be repealed) and the Republican proposal to replace it, there remains one very large GOP elephant in the room that has been ignored. Under the ACA, insurance companies must spend either 80 percent or 85 percent of your premium dollars on actual health care and quality improvement. That leaves them with a mere 15 percent to 20 percent of your money to pay for their overhead costs and profits. Before this rule was in place, you may have had insurance that spent less than 50 percent of your premium on health care and the rest on overhead (office space, employee wages, etc.), executive bonuses (as high as a billion dollars a year for some CEOs) and profits. The proposed replacement would return us to the bad old days. And as to the critics of the ACA who claim that Medicare for all would waste money, the overhead costs for true Medicare (before you had to pick an insurance-company middleman to manage your Medicare account), was a mere 1 percent, with 99 percent spent on health care. And, the ACA capped premium increases, and that goes away, too. So what do you think the cost of health care will do when the sky is the limit for profits?

Glenn T. Livezey, Minnetonka

Guns don't make us safer: That's the honest reality

More guns, less crime. If that claim made by John Lott were true (" 'Stand Your Ground' laws: The facts don't support fears of armed citizens," March 9), we'd be the safest nation on earth with more than 300 million firearms — a gun for every man, woman and child in America. Instead, the U.S. has a gun death rate 25 times higher than the rates of other developed nations.

Sadly, my family is no stranger to gun violence. In September 2003, my aunt, Shelley Joseph-Kordell, was shot and killed in the courthouse shooting at the Hennepin County Government Center. Her attorney and friend, Rick Hendrickson, survived a gunshot wound to the neck. Neither security nor armed deputies could intervene in time, because in reality, a bullet travels faster than the speed of sound, leaving zero time for heroism.

The same day the Star Tribune published his commentary, Lott also testified on behalf of the gun lobby at a Public Safety Committee hearing in the Minnesota House, which advanced two dangerous gun bills: permitless carry and Stand Your Ground. The National Research Council released findings in 2004 discrediting Lott. In fact, one of the "scientific surveys" conducted by Lott seems to have vanished completely without any evidence of so-called student volunteers, employee records, expense records, telephone records, sampling design or statistical analysis. It was also revealed that "Mary Rosh," an online blogger who claimed to be a former student corroborating Lott's "research," was in fact John Lott himself.

We need to come together and discuss combating gun violence as a public health epidemic that kills more than 33,000 Americans each year. Until we can have an honest conversation based on actual facts rather than alternative ones, we will continue to see more people joining this terrible club of families personally affected by gun violence.

Rachael Joseph, Minneapolis