AP NEWS

Excerpts from recent South Dakota editorials

November 18, 2019

Madison Daily Leader, Nov. 14

Vaping laws should be at federal level

Our country is coming to grips with the vaping crisis, and the only thing to address it legally is at the federal level.

We wrote about vaping in September, and the situation has gotten much worse since then. According to the Center for Disease Control, 2,051 cases of vaping-associated lung injuries have been reported through Nov. 5. All states have reported injuries, except Alaska. Thirty-nine deaths have been reported in 24 states.

A teenager in Michigan whose lungs had severe damage from vaping received a double lung transplant in October, in a procedure that doctors say saved his life.

Vaping is the process of using a battery-operated, hand-held vaporizer, which simulates some aspects of smoking without burning tobacco. The vaporizer heats a liquid, typically containing propylene glycol, glycerin, nicotine, flavorings and other additives.

Although vaping has been marketed as a safe alternative to adults hooked on cigarette smoking, vaping has become devastatingly popular among teenagers. In a recent survey, one third of the state’s high school seniors reported using e-cigarettes in 2018. According to national data, 5 million children use e-cigarettes, compared with 8 million adults.

Some states are taking action to raise the legal age of buying vaping products, but in our opinion, that does little good. If products are legal in one state and not the next, the flow of products across state lines will be very easy. And purchases over by phone or online and delivered by mail or other carrier would be even easier.

No, only a change in federal law will make a difference. And while raising the age from 18 to 21 sounds like it would help only young adults, it actually would sharply reduce usage by younger teenagers, who today get them through legal purchases by older teenagers.

Congress isn’t known for quick action on anything, but this could be an opportunity to do so, providing it doesn’t turn into a Republican vs. Democrat issue. Quick action by Congress and the President to raise the legal age would be extremely good for our nation’s health.

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Aberdeen American News, Nov. 16

Enrollment numbers should inspire us to do better

Enrollment numbers at college campuses always are intriguing.

When those numbers go down, the spin doctors rise up. They usually point out that even though the overall numbers are down, there still is good news to report.

Enrollment at South Dakota’s six public universities was down about 3.4%, or 1,217 students, compared to last fall. Total headcount this fall was 34,520. Last fall it was 35,737.

In Aberdeen, there are 3,427 individual students taking courses at Northern State this fall, 66 fewer than last fall.

None of South Dakota’s six public universities saw an increase in headcount enrollment.

Since those numbers emerged a couple of months ago, several experts weighed in about reasons for the decline, including:

— South Dakota’s low unemployment rate and strong job market. Such numbers lure high school graduates into the full-time job market immediately.

— The state’s need for more financial aid.

— High school students and their parents thinking ahead about student loan debt. Such debt has been crushing the souls of many college graduates and haunting some of them through retirement age.

— Technical schools becoming more and more attractive versus a college degree. Tech schools advertise themselves as having less costs, quicker routes to obtain a degree and less theory and more practical (time in the classroom vs. hands-on). Plus, tech schools say many employers are lining up to hire their graduates.

Of course, the benefits of having a college degree are many, say proponents: Endless earning potential, wider job opportunities and the college experience as a quality of life issue.

“We have to continue to bring more students to campus and the community,” said Justin Fraase, NSU’s director of communication and marketing, when the enrollment numbers were released at the end of September. “Of course, that’s a challenge year after year, but it’s one that we’re up for.”

We agree and like the can-do attitude of NSU officials. We also like the position NSU is in, with all the new buildings on campus.

There are new resident halls, athletic additions and the beautiful new Harvey C. Jewett IV Regional Science Education Center. NSU also is building a new on-campus football stadium and softball field.

“We still continue to feel optimistic,” Fraase said. “We feel like we’re in a really sweet place here in terms of facilities, in terms of programming, scholarships, all of these types of things. We’ve got a lot working in our favor.”

Again, we agree with the optimism.

We also feel NSU should be selling itself as a place where you can graduate college debt-free or almost so via part-time jobs. NSU has examples of students who have done so in the past, and the college needs to put practices in place to teach students how to do so.

To us, too many colleges seem to show students only how to obtain loans, and not how to manage them. Students and their parents need better understanding about the consequences of student loans later in life if they are not paid back as soon as and as efficiently as possible.

We feel such an effort would make NSU a more attractive option. Show students how to work during their college years and the benefits of doing so, and if they do have to take out loans, help them formulate plans to pay them back quickly. Help them understand what it can mean years later if they take out a lot of loans now.

Through the last 15 years, NSU’s enrollment peaked at 3,622 in fall 2012.

With all the millions of dollars invested in NSU in recent years to rebuild its campus, we expect to see its numbers stabilize and then trend up rather than down in the years ahead.

The same goes across town at Presentation College, where transitions and transformations are taking place, as well. Investments on the PC campus over the last few years have also reached into the millions of dollars.

PC and NSU have always been crown jewels of Aberdeen.

The pressure is on for campus leaders to keep those jewels safe, shiny and attractive — pressure that also needs to be put upon the shoulders of community leaders and all of us residents.

More hands make heavy loads lighter and produce more and better ideas on how to haul such heavy loads.

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Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan, Nov. 11

Hunting numbers continue to fall

One of the big components of South Dakota’s tourism industry has always been hunting. It has long been a popular outdoor sport for this state; in fact, South Dakota’s pheasant hunting is renowned around the world.

But hunting numbers in South Dakota have seen better days, and the state is currently caught in a downward trend that mirrors what’s happening to the sport across the nation.

The Rapid City Journal reported last week that the state sold 26,000 fewer hunting licenses this year, which has cost South Dakota about $1 million in revenue.

An official with the Department of Game, Fish and Parks assigned some of the blame to a long winter and flooding, as well as a resulting decline in pheasant numbers. But the official also acknowledged the continuation of a downward trend in hunting participation.

According to an article last month in Outdoor Life, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported that the number of hunters in the country had declined from an all-time high of 17 million hunters in 1982 to just 11.5 million in 2016. That latter figure represented just 4% of the national population.

Part of the problem is that hunting is big among baby boomers, but less so with subsequent generations, and as the boomers age and stop hunting, their numbers are not being replenished.

There’s also a matter of shifting demographics. Population numbers are growing in urban areas, where hunting is less readily available, while the population is declining in rural areas where the sport is more accessible. And frankly, a majority of hunters have traditionally been Caucasians, but the nation’s ethnic palette is growing far more diverse.

Meanwhile, programs to recruit new hunters have not always been effective. Among other reasons, the programs sometimes miss the mark. Outdoor Life noted that efforts to develop new hunters among kids — which would seem like a logical long-term investment — often don’t pay off because kids need adult supervision and resources to hunt. (A better target, the periodical suggested, might be young adults, who are more financially stable and certainly more independent.)

The decline in hunters is a cause for concern, and not simply because it’s costing the state revenue. Outdoor Life noted that the loss of hunters means the reduction of fees that are often used to fund conservation programs that are essential to boosting habitat that help bird numbers. So, in a perplexing piece of irony, a sport based on hunters stalking, say, pheasants also helps boost the populations of pheasants.

Unfortunately, this issue is likely to worsen, based on past trends and long-term projections. As the boomers age out of hunting, and with fewer people taking their place, a crash may be looming. And if that happens, it will hurt everyone and everything all the way around.