Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:


March 30

The Kingsport Times-News on smoking in city playgrounds and parks:

Smokers don’t carry ashtrays, and most cigarette butts they discard outdoors will litter the environment for years. The butt of a cigarette is primarily the filter, made of a type of plasticized cellulose acetate. It does not readily biodegrade, though Eastman Chemical Co. produces acetate tow that is biodegradable in specific environments.

The unsightly accumulation of cigarette butts is one reason Kingsport and Sullivan County are moving to ban smoking in the city’s playgrounds and the county’s only park at Deery Inn. Otherwise, these bans are necessary to protect the children using playgrounds because some ignorant parents puff away right beside them. The city will also ban the use of vaping products, something the county cannot do absent state approval.

Two years ago, the state gave cities and counties authority to ban tobacco products in playgrounds, but that legislation didn’t go far enough. Tobacco products may still be used elsewhere in parks, and vaping products were not included.

Kingsport aldermen will vote April 6 to finalize the ban, which will go into effect April 20 and result in a $50 citation from the police department. The city is acting in response to support from local public health professionals, including addiction specialists and pediatricians, said Alderwoman Jennifer Adler.

“I am grateful for recent legislation from the state of Tennessee that allows us to pass this ordinance and help ensure a healthy play environment for all Kingsport children,” Adler said.

About 1 in 5 Sullivan County residents smoke, which is higher than the national average, Adler said, adding that lowering the rate of tobacco use is a critical way to improve the overall health of the community. According to Kingsport Assistant City Manager Michael Borders, the new ordinance covers tobacco and hemp products used in cigarettes, cigars and pipes.

People will not be allowed to smoke in the playground areas but may smoke in other parts of the parks. Why? Shouldn’t smoking and vaping be banned throughout city and county parks? The city has the authority to prohibit the use of electronic smoking devices on or in city-owned facilities and properties. Borders said when signs are erected to warn visitors of the smoking ban at playgrounds, those signs will also address vaping as well.

The county’s ban, based on state law, does not include vaping because, according to County Commissioner Sam Jones, sponsor of the resolution to ban smoking at playgrounds in county-owned parks, the county is constrained by state law on the issue. “Vaping is as bad, if not worse, than smoking, and I cannot support this unless you include vaping,” said Commissioner Larry Crawford.

Use of e-cigarettes is unsafe for kids, teens and young adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC says most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is highly addictive and can harm adolescent brain development, which continues into the early to mid-20s.

And e-cigarettes can contain other harmful substances besides nicotine. Young people who use e-cigarettes may be more likely to smoke cigarettes in the future.

Simply put, government at all levels should crack down on smoking and vaping throughout all public facilities.



March 30

The Johnson City Press on being a responsible pet owner:

Most Americans know what it means to be a responsible parent, a responsible driver or a responsible gun owner. Too many of our neighbors, however, don’t make the time to be responsible pet owners.

A number of dogs and cats might be alive today had they not been allowed to roam unsupervised. And many more deaths could have been prevented had pet owners spayed or neutered their animals.

Dogs should always be properly confined when they are not on a leash. Doing so means your pet is not making a nuisance of itself in a neighbor’s yard.

It’s also important for pet owners to sterilize their animals so there are no unwanted litters. Spaying or neutering pets also means dogs and cats wander less and suffer fewer mood changes.

Spaying or neutering household pets is essential for lowering the population of stray and abandoned animals that end up in local shelters. More than 3 million unwanted dogs and cats are euthanized each year.

Pet owners also should have their dogs and cats vaccinated against rabies. This is particularly important in our region, where rabies is most commonly found in raccoons, skunks, bats and foxes.

The raccoon strain is generally considered to be the most dangerous because raccoons are more likely than other rabies carriers to come in contact with people and their pets.

We would also remind local local governments that animal control is an essential public health service and should be treated as such.

That includes properly funding the service at the level it deserves.

We know there will be the usual push back from residents and politicians who argue tax dollars should not be spent to build kennels and pay “dog catchers.” That’s an inaccurate and outdated perception of what a professional animal shelter program is all about.

Animal control is not a charity. It is an important health and public safety function that deals with many diverse issues, such as rabies, abandoned animals and abused pets.



March 29

The Crossville Chronicle on the COVID-19 vaccine:

About 1 in 9 people in Tennessee are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Nationally, it’s about 1 in 6.

When vaccines first became available, supplies were scarce and people were told to be patient, that their time would come. But many have let the opportunity to get a vaccine pass them by. The Tennessee Department of Health said last week only about 20% of vaccine appointments are being filled in West Tennessee. We’re doing well in the Upper Cumberland, but we need as many people as possible to get the vaccine to protect as many people as possible.

So far, more than 26,000 residents of Cumberland County have had at least one dose of the vaccine, with 16.6% of residents fully vaccinated.

Right now, anyone 16 and older who wants a vaccine can get one.

You can register online with the Department of Health at or call 866-442-5301

You can find other providers with the vaccine at, which lets you sort results by the type of vaccine available. As of the time this was written Monday morning, there were 12 locations offering vaccinations, with eight with vaccine in stock.

Plateau Pediatrics announced over the weekend it would hold another vaccination clinic April 10 from noon to 4 p.m. at the Cumberland County Playhouse. They have 500 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which requires only one shot, available.

A COVID-19 vaccine is the best and safest way to become immune to the virus that has held the world hostage for the past year. Even if you had COVID-19, you should get the vaccine.

People may worry about the safety of vaccines, but each of the three vaccines available in the U.S. have been given to millions of people and shown to be safe and effective. Some people may have allergic reactions, and that’s why providers ask individuals to wait at least 15 minutes after getting their shot. Medical providers staff the waiting areas and you can blow your horn if you have trouble.

If you have concerns about the safety of the vaccines or how it might interact with any medications or illness you have, the best place to get guidance is from your primary care provider. Call and talk with them about your concerns.

The vaccine cannot give you COVID-19. And while the different vaccines offer different efficacy rates, they all prevent severe illness from the virus.