Traffic updates needed for those caught in jam

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

On June 29, during a long trip, my wife and I were part of a 6-hour traffic jam on Afton Mountain on westbound Interstate 64. A large fire in a moving van caused the tie-up. Firefighters and the National Guard worked to put out the difficult-to-control fire and clean up the mess on the road. Those of us trapped in the tie-up could not go forward nor backward. Some had small children suffering in the heat; all were in need of bathroom facilities.

The absence of any information regarding the 6-hour situation was awful. I saw the state police as the ones who should have been informing us or rerouting the traffic. I tried calling #77 and was informed that the number wasn’t working. I called many local state police offices and no one would answer. There was a large lighted sign up ahead and visible to us saying that there was a vehicle fire and all lanes were blocked. It never changed; the sign could have given us updates.

I hope the leadership can learn from this and do better on any future long tie-up.

John Christopher.

Versailles, Ky.

E-cigarettes pose risks to health of vapers

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

The city of San Francisco’s recent decision to ban e-cigarettes is the latest response to address our nation’s vaping crisis. More and more, we’re seeing the dangers e-cigarettes cause, especially on our youth.

Eight years ago, the percentage of high school students who said they had used an e-cigarette within last 30 days was just 1.5%. Less than a decade later, that figure has jumped to more than 20%. One in five high school students say they now use e-cigarettes.

The Food and Drug Administration has taken steps to prevent access to flavored tobacco products, which appeal to teens. In Virginia, legislators raised the legal purchase age for the product from 18 to 21.

But e-cigarettes are a threat to more than young adults. As a practicing dentist, I regularly observe the impact of smoking, smokeless tobacco and vaping. It’s clear to me that e-cigarettes are not a healthy alternative to smoking.

Early research from Harvard scientists found that popular vaping cartridges and e-liquid products contain bacteria and fungi previously linked to adverse lung issues. And dentists know that vaping sweet-flavored e-cigarettes can increase a person’s risk of cavities. And the nicotine in these devices can increase one’s risk of periodontal damage.

There also is evidence that e-cigarettes can be a gateway to cigarette smoking. The cardiovascular impacts of smoking are well-documented; less well known perhaps are the host of oral health issues caused by smoking, including receding gums, oral cancer, lesions, periodontal disease and tooth staining.

Our nation has made great strides in reducing the use of tobacco products. Policymakers have accelerated this decline by funding anti-smoking campaigns and by restricting where smokers can light up. We must not let the threat of e-cigarettes reverse decades of progress.

Samuel W. Galstan.

Chester.

Social democracy made America great

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

Recent letters to the editor about socialism prompt my response.

Socialism and social democracy are two very different things. Venezuela has socialism. The United States has social democracy. Yes, we already are a social democracy.

The “great” America that President Trump wants to make again was the result of social democracy. Starting with the GI Bill, the largest investment ever made by the government to its people, it triggered the housing boom, a nation of college graduates and a transportation network. Amazon and FedEx have benefited mightily from this government investment. Google and Apple are all byproducts of the massive public funds that were invested by the government in things like the internet, GPS, Siri and the algorithm behind Google. Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook wouldn’t exist if the internet hadn’t been basically free to use in his college dorm. Drugs making Big Pharma billions often started at the National Institutes for Health. A very successful marriage between government and industry is what made America great.

The heyday of “social democracy,” 1940-1980s, saw a middle-class expansion that made it possible for people to own homes, send kids to college and save for their retirements. Now in their senior years, America’s greatest generation benefited most from social democracy.

We are now seeing a movement to revive our social democracy. No one should be surprised that this is exciting the millennials. After 40 years of dismantling social democracy, they’re stuck with huge college debt, crumbling infrastructure, climate change catastrophe and a future that will not equal that of their parents. History has shown them what social democracy can do and how it benefited previous generations. They would like the opportunity too.

The GOP will try hard to confuse the public by insisting that socialism and social democracy are the same thing. They are not. Socialism has destroyed Venezuela. Social democracy made the United States the greatest country ever.

Ann Kramer.

Richmond.

Democrats served up ‘free’ buffet at debates

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

After watching hours of the Democratic candidates’ debates, here’s my takeaway: If you believe in a free lunch, then vote in 2020 for any and all Democrats. Then you will receive free health care, free college, debt forgiveness for all past college loans, plus $1,000 cash tax-free per adult each month every year. And all illegal immigration will be declared legal. Anyone can enter our borders, period. Climate change will be solved, period. Gasoline for automobiles and trucks will be taken away. And only people making more than $15 million each year will pay income taxes.

Wow, I cannot wait.

Dale McIntosh.

Midlothian.

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