American drones also kill innocents

My heart grieves and I share tears with President Barack Obama.

The slaying of young innocents and their teachers is breathtakingly tragic.

I also wonder why we Americans are not equally shocked when American drones abroad kill women and children, and we call it "collateral damage."

Nancy Sale

Pleasant Hill

Banning specific foods not wise

I am referring to the recent Times article, "Mt. Diablo High students embrace healthy eating."

I feel compelled to add that by creating fear and extreme views around specific foods and drinks, we are encouraging an unhealthy relationship with nutrition.

It concerns me when I hear young people call soda "diabetes in a bottle," or french fries "cancer sticks." Banning or criminalizing specific foods may eventually backfire by making them seem more desirable or by contributing to disordered or obsessive diet thoughts and behaviors.

As a registered dietitian with more than 25 years of experience, I have seen these habits develop in my work with college students.

The truth is that illnesses such as diabetes, cancer and obesity are complex, with multiple lifestyle and dietary risk factors. Using these diseases to frighten people into avoiding specific foods and beverages is disingenuous.

Instead, I believe it's vital to keep educational messages balanced and positive, focusing more on moderation, portion control and being physically active.

Elaine Magee

Pleasant Hill

Gun restrictions are far too weak

The shooting at Newtown isn't the only tragedy caused by weaponry.

Last summer, my dear friend was killed by a deranged gunman. He was only 16 years old and had his whole life ahead of him. You can only imagine how his friends and family felt.

Only to think that 20 innocent little children were slaughtered because of insanity is devastating. How can a mentally ill man with a bellicose manner be allowed to obtain firearms?

We should feel abashed by our weak gun restrictions. We must pay attention so that those who should not obtain weapons are prevented from doing so.

Ammor Ali

Richmond

Time to stop the weapons insanity

Gun control seems straightforward to me. Handguns are for killing people. Automatic weapons are weapons of war and should be restricted to that purpose.

If you must kill animals for food or for "sport" (I thought a sport was when both opponents knew the rules and were equally equipped to engage in the sport), then buy a rifle. Keep it locked in a gun safe so unstable persons or children cannot access it.

There is no reason for handguns or automatic weapons on our streets except in the hands of law enforcement. I worked more than 30 years in emergency rooms and have seen firsthand what guns do to people. It is past time to stop this insanity.

Helen Oliver

Brentwood

Tobacco facts are available

I thank the paper for its recent article on the new state report on tobacco use.

While we have done a great deal of work in Contra Costa County to reduce the impact of tobacco, there is still much work to be done.

Our county has the sixth-highest youth smoking rate in the state at 16.9 percent, compared with the statewide rate of 13.8 percent. And while the overall statewide illegal tobacco sales rate to youths is 8.7 percent, there are cities in Contra Costa with a youth sales rate of more than 20 percent.

The Tobacco Prevention Project provides information to community members who are concerned about tobacco use and secondhand smoke in the county, and works with cities to develop prevention policies to address tobacco influences.

Requiring local tobacco retailer licensing has dramatically reduced sales to minors across the state, and secondhand smoke protections have greatly reduced tobacco use in our county. The Board of Supervisors has adopted such policies for the unincorporated county.

We can be reached at 925-313-6214.

Denice Dennis

El Cerrito Dennis is the manager of the Tobacco Prevention Project of Contra Costa Health Services in Martinez.