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Darts and laurels

Dart to the “F” the American Lung Association has given North Carolina for its efforts in 2006 to protect people from the dangers of smoking. True, North Carolina does not have as many laws prohibiting smoking in workplaces, but the grade fails to recognize the strides the state has taken — both in laws and through voluntary actions. The state now bans smoking in all General Assembly buildings, so hallways and offices where tobacco was once king now are 100 percent smokefree. Ten years ago that would have unthinkable. Many businesses, hotels, restaurants and hospitals have adopted smokefree policies — not because the government forced them, but because it’s good for business and good for employees’ health. The state also got an F in spending money on tobacco prevention and control, an F for its relatively low cigarette tax (35 cents per pack, compared to the national average of $1), and on youth access. The state needs to recognize the progress it has made and push forward in these crucial areas.

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Laurels to a new requirement for high school students hoping to get a diploma in 2010 or later — a senior project. The state added this to graduation requirements after seeing some counties and individual schools successfully carry out the program. It’s part of the tougher graduation requirements OK’d in 2005, and students will find it a challenge. The projects are supposed to showcase research and presentation skills learned throughout students’ high school years, and they often are a combination of academic research, community service and job shadowing. For students who don’t do well on tests, it’s a chance to demonstrate their abilities in a different way. Of course, it also could look like an insurmountable obstacle to those on the brink of dropping out. This may take some extra coaching.

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Dart to pet owners who forget or neglect to vaccinate pets against rabies. The N.C. Division of Public Health says it’s already received reports of 13 rabies cases in the first day sof 2007, a sign that last year’s total of 520 rabid animals may be surpassed in the months to come. Unfortunately, for each rabid animal, there may be an unvaccinated family pet or two that had to be euthanized after tussling with the infected animal. Rowan had 14 confirmed cases of rabies last year, and many of them forced families to lose their pets because of the danger of spreading the disease. As the new year starts, this is a good time to make sure your dogs and cats are up-to-date on rabies shots.

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