Thumbs down to a Rock County traffic fatality mystery. Rock County led the state in per capita road fatalities for 2019, though it's not clear why. Perhaps the statistic was a fluke, or perhaps there's a good reason for it. "It's not for a lack of enforcement, and it's definitively not a lack of education because the state keeps pushing out brochures on impaired and distracted driving," Sheriff's Office Cmdr. Jude Maurer told The Gazette. But maybe it's a lack of people thinking they need to listen to the advice they're being given. Every driver should know not to text and drive, but take a look around on your drive today. See anyone peeking at their smartphone? Yep, that's what we thought.
Thumbs up to confronting nursing home financial challenges today. Both Rock and Walworth counties operate nursing homes, and both are facing long-term financial challenges from Medicaid and Medicare short-changing them on reimbursements. In a Dec. 29 story, retiring Walworth County Administrator Dave Bretl characterized the problem as urgent, though "not in crisis mode" yet. Let's hope the two counties don't wait until a crisis, with their nursing homes acting like icebergs and tearing gaping holes in the counties' budgets. It would be an ugly scene, with politicians and taxpayers alike scrambling for the life boats. All options need to be on the table, including the possibility of privatizing the facilities as other counties have done.
Thumbs up to new vaping plan. Some health officials are complaining the Trump administration's proposed vaping ban doesn't go far enough because it permits menthol and tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes to remain on the market. But the proposal is a significant improvement on current policy, which allows sales of fruit- and candy-flavored e-cigarettes, which are known to attract teenagers. A total ban might have been unwise because it could have pushed teens toward black markets, which could create an even bigger problem. The recent spate of lung illnesses caused by vaping have been traced mostly to black-market marijuana e-cigarettes. At least when teens acquire devices from stores, there's a better opportunity to monitor those products and alert the public to any potential safety issues.
Thumbs up to raising tobacco sales age to 21. This new federal rule rolled out last week with minimal fanfare, as many states have been headed in this direction. Wisconsin legislators were in the process of crafting a similar rule when the new federal regulations took effect. The lack of blow-back over the change suggests many people have grown comfortable with more restrictions knowing how destructive tobacco is to users' health. Not only will this new rule likely help save lives, it will help save money, too. The average smoker wastes $22,920 supporting his habit over a 10 year period, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.