Youth smoking declines • The percentage of Utah high school students who smoke cigarettes continues to decline, according to the Utah Health Department. That's important progress because most smokers report that they took up the habit before they were 18 years old. In 1999, some 11.9 percent of Utah high school kids said they smoked cigarettes. That rate has been cut in half, with 5.9 percent reporting in 2011 that they smoked. That's good news for individual health and for the cost of health care. Unfortunately, there still are about 220,000 Utahns who smoke, and four of five of them say they want to quit. About 12,000 smokers took advantage of free cessation programs over the past year. It's hard to say whether the graphic TV ads about the health effects of smoking or the Legislature's increasing the tobacco tax by $1 a pack in 2010 have together made the difference, but we suspect both could have contributed to the declining smoking rate. Still, the use of tobacco products causes an estimated $663 million in health-care expenses and lost productivity in the Beehive State in a year.
That old magic • It's a show biz aphorism that you never want to follow children or an animal act on stage. In politics, you never want to appear after a speech by Bill Clinton, because the comeback kid still has got the magic. The former president's address to the Democratic National Convention Wednesday was the best rebuttal to Republican attacks on President Obama and his record that you are likely to hear. The former president still manages to combine folksy talk with wonkish numbers in a winning formula, and he's adroit at sensing the reaction of his audience and adjusting his message on the fly. By comparison, Obama's acceptance speech Thursday sounded a bit stilted, a bit too cool emotionally. If the Democrats are smart, they will turn Clinton loose to campaign for the president in swing states.
The bleat goes on • Quinn Argyle came up with an unusual Eagle Scout project. He has restored the goat barn at the Utah State Fair. He tends dairy goats himself in West Jordan. It was an enormous project for a young man, but he has done a remarkable job, and the value of his work to the fair has been estimated at somewhere between $25,000 and $40,000. He didn't do it alone. His father kicked in money from a family foundation to help defray expenses, and others provided materials at cost. What this means for fairgoers is a beautifully restored early 20th century barn to view the goats, and a building that is easier to clean and maintain. Well done, Quinn.