The (Decatur) Herald & Review

When implementing policy and plans, more now than ever, appearances are important and considering them is vital.

As Chicago Tribune's Hailey Mensik reported last week, a "bill on its way to Gov. Bruce Rauner's desk would raise the legal age for purchasing tobacco and nicotine products from 18 to 21 statewide, a move praised by public health advocates and opposed by convenience stores and other Illinois retailers."

Opposed? As in wanting to continue to sell tobacco and nicotine products to what the law now - but perhaps no longer - considers adults?

That makes sense from the point of view of defending a retailer's ability to make money. But how did that discussion go down behind closed doors? A cynic would imagine that conversation would begin by saying, "We have these products that are among the most lethal we are allowed to sell, products that science argues are poison in many ways. How can we sell more of this to more people?"

"Nicotine products" is another way of saying "vaping," and that's an industry with its own optical issues. Also last week, The Associated Press reported, "a growing number of e-cigarette and vaporizer sellers have started offering college scholarships as a way to get their brands listed on university websites and to get students to write essays about the potential benefits of vaping."

The scholarships, the AP continues, range in value from $250 to $5,000. They're essay contests asking students to write about the dangers of tobacco or whether vaping could be a safer alternative.

There's always an advantage when you're able to convince your propaganda victims to write copy targeting themselves.

There's no suggestion of nefarious operations in either case. Lawmakers embrace the idea of backing legislation with tangible benefits, be they financial, comforting or protective. Retailers are fighting for their share of a market, and don't want to see that market reduced in size. If a company can get its customers to write ad copy or prepare pro-company arguments, more power to them. If any potential victim or target can't see between the lines, that's the problem of the target.

But that can't be your first move, or the one you go to in a highly visible fashion. It's a dangerous step to take, and just inviting a social media takedown of some sort.

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