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Pioneer Viewpoints: Where there’s smoke, there’s fire

Beltrami County and the city of Bemidji are both studying the issue of electronic cigarettes, whether it be their use in public or how to regulate sales of the products.

The city recently had its first reading of a new ordinance in regard to sales, and the county is looking at a three-step process that includes a public hearing before ruling on its e-cigarette policy.

As with any controversial topic, there’s two sides, and maybe more, to the story. In the simplest terms, some say e-cigarettes are a legal product that offers a safe alternative to conventional cigarettes and can help smokers quit. Others worry about the effects of e-cigs on users, especially young people, and the fact that the Food and Drug Administration has yet to regulate the products. There’s also the question of government intrusion on personal privacy, as well as roadblocks for businesses who sell the legal products.

Members of both the City Council and Board of Commissioners have been right to call for an evolving process. Whatever decisions are made are sure to not be popular to some, but through investigation of the issue is the right course. Properly vetting the complexities of the issues, and allowing the citizenry — individuals, groups, businesses — to weigh in with their opinions is when public policy works best.

A new approach

In an ideal society, there wouldn’t be a need for a domestic violence shelter and programs/services to help those suffering from the abuse. And since there is a need in our society, it was encouraging to see that the Northwoods Coalition for Family Safety will be fully operational again soon. Not only with a renovated and physical facility, but also with an updated approach to helping victims of abuse, as reporter Zach Kayser noted in his story last week. While we wish we didn’t have to have a domestic abuse shelter, it is comforting to know that there is a place for, and caring people to assist, victims of domestic abuse and their families, especially children.

Hot topic

As shown by the turnout on Thursday at Bemidji City Hall, the move to increase the state’s minimum wage will be a hot topic at the Minnesota Legislature. Whatever is decided will have a great impact on Beltrami County and the region, one of the most poverty-stricken areas in the state. The impacts to workers, but also to the businesses that employ them, will have a ripple effect on our regional economy.