By Laura Merrill, candidate HD 87, Stevensville
I read with interest your response to Linda’s Schmitt’s letter, “Vote for Person, Not Party.” I thank you for your contribution toward passing legislation that penalizes those who sell vaping products directly to minors – as a vape shop owner, that is a good position to take. I wish the effort was working…kids are still getting their hands (and their lungs) on these products. According to the Montana DPHHS, the use of E-Cigarettes has risen to the most frequently used tobacco product of choice among Montana youth. The Great Falls Tribune (June 2020) published the following and I quote, “Montana ranks above the national average in youth vaping rates. Nearly 60% of Montana high school students and 30% of middle school students have tried vaping, state officials said. In 2019, almost one in 10 Montana high schools students vaped daily, exposing their brains to the long-term effects of nicotine addiction. This is a 263% increase from 2017.”
So, I believe we as a society need to do more to protect our youth from accessing these illegal products, and prevent a public health crisis in the near future. I would love to hear more about your positions on education, affordable housing, health care, public lands, etc. But more importantly, I believe the voting public needs to hear them and hear more of my opinions, too, on these critical issues that affect Montana families! It has been a strange year to campaign for public office, I think we can agree on that. No public meetings, no fair booth, and we are discouraged to go door to door to meet our constituents. We have both submitted answers to questionnaires that have and will be published. How do we as candidates do a better job framing important issues and distinguishing ourselves from each other, so that voters can be informed before they cast their votes? My solution is for you and I to respectfully debate the issues, and I would be agreeable to talking with you on how best to accomplish that. A debate on important issues in person, or online? Could the Bitterroot Star generate some questions for you and I to answer directly on their website? Time is of the essence, and voters need to hear more from us.