End the TIF, balance the budget

This is not a coincidence! Last week's announcement of two major retailers plan to spend over $2 million to remodel and move into the long vacant former Toys-R-Us and Michael's on Ed Noble Parkway is exciting news.

One would have to wonder why now? Over the past few years the state of Oklahoma has continued to cut higher education funding creating head winds for the Norman economy. This resulted in thousands of job layoffs. The price of oil has dropped precipitously, the stock market is in the midst of a major correction and there is talk of a looming recession. So what's motivating private enterprise in their decisions to remodel vacant buildings?

Here is my view.

The dust has hardly settled from the withdrawal of the UNP proposal for a new arena in north Norman. The city council is diligently trying to unwind the city out of the UNP TIF2 which publicly subsidized the UNP shopping center in North Norman and was to subsidize construction of the Arena. This form of corporate welfare has produced disastrous effects for the rest of town. Efforts to end the TIF now signals that ALL of Norman is open for business, not just a select area.

I believe we must continue to push for ENDING THE TIF & balancing the city budget. This fight is not over. By ending this form of corporate welfare Norman as a WHOLE will benefit. This practice of picking winners and losers has to stop if we want to see more good economic news similar to last week's announcement.

END THE TIF - BALANCE THE BUDGET!

Respectfully,

Joe Carter DVM

Ward 2 council member

E-cigarettes:

know the truth

Parents: We all know being a teenager is difficult. As parents, you take precautionary measures for your children's' safety -- tracking their phones, setting up internet blockers, making sure they're home at a certain hour. You set boundaries and try to stay one step ahead to keep them out of trouble. But now, unfortunately, it's not just your child's own choices or the threat of negative peer pressure you have to stay ahead of -- it's corporate tobacco's deception tactics.

According to the FDA, from 2017 to 2018, e-cigarette use among high-schoolers rose by more than 75 percent, and usage increased by 50 percent among middle-schoolers. The problem is most of the people using e-cigarettes have no idea the harm they can cause. A 15-month survey conducted by the Truth Initiative revealed that a quarter of the young people who used Juul (the most popular brand of e-cigarette) during that timeframe believe it's less harmful than other forms of tobacco. The study surveyed 140-240 people ranging from age 15 to 24 . Sixty-three percent of the respondents had no idea that Juul products contain nicotine.

According to the survey, e-cigarette, and Juul use specifically, is soaring among young people, largely because of three factors: their friends Juul; the pods come in tasty, fruity flavors; and they don't believe it poses any harm to their health (or at least very little).

While Juul and other e-cigarette companies claim to market themselves as a means for current adult smokers to quit; the reality is that they're creating a new generation of addicts. And while the manufacturers would like to say that vaping is a "safer form of smoking," the habit is far from harmless -- especially for young people. One Juul pod contains as much nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes -- and plenty of teens use one pod in one sitting. Juul pods also (unlike other e-cigarettes) use nicotine salts rather than freebase nicotine. According to the National Center for Health Research, "this makes the nicotine more readily absorbed into the bloodstream and makes the vapor less harsh so that it's easier to inhale more nicotine for longer periods of time."

Nicotine wreaks havoc on a developing brain. Nicotine is highly addictive, and according to Harvard research, it "may lead to changes in the brain that increase the risk of addiction to other drugs, especially in young people. Nicotine may also impair prefrontal brain development in adolescents, leading to attention deficit disorder and poor impulse control."

According to the CDC, Juuls contain more benzoic acid than other e-cigarette brands, and this chemical is "known to cause coughs, sore throat, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting if exposure is constant, which is the case when using a juul."

Is vaping harmful? Yes. The research says as much. But the problem is that a vast majority of the users -- and their guardians -- have no idea how harmful, and how prevalent, the e-cigarette trend is. What's more frightening is that a company in Colorado has developed a special brand of clothing designed to allow wearers to use e-cigarettes and cannabis more discreetly. (Users visiting the site must verify they're 21 by clicking "verify" -- hardly a deterrent for anyone under 21 looking to conceal their electronic cigarettes.) The site claims to cater to medical marijuana users and "deliver clean vapor, not smoke, quietly, and efficiently," advertising that "it's simple to use, so even a friend suffering from a debilitating condition can manage their meds discreetly and self-sufficiently." They've made it possible to take a user's vaping device out of their purse or pocket, and into their clothes so that it's "easy to share, whether riding on a chair lift, dancing at a festival or a myriad of other favorite places."

The word "epidemic" is not an exaggeration. Ignorance is not bliss, and parents and teachers have to know about the dangers of vaping. We have to stay educated, and we have to make sure kids and teenagers realize the dangers they're up against. As a parent, make sure you're the one delivering messages about tobacco and nicotine to your kids -- don't leave it up to advertisements and peers.

Chandler Scarbrough

Business Sector Coordinator for the Healthy Living Program

TSET Healthy Living Program

Caleb Slinkard was hired as the editor of the Norman Transcript in August of 2015. He is a graduate of Texas A&M University-Commerce and previously was in charge of several newspapers in northeast Texas.