New smoking age goes into effect



Recently, the United States has seen multiple changes regarding laws including ages you are eligible to drink, smoke marijuana and now tobacco use.

On Dec. 20, 2019, President Trump signed the bill which was set to go into effect immediately. The American Lung Association has been pushing for this law to go into effect because it will improve the safety and health of people and overall save lives.

Multiple statistics have shown just how deadly smoking and vaping can be. “Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States so anything that helps stop tobacco use is beneficial,” said Natashia Swalve, professor of Psychology.

Nineteen states and over 500 cities have changed the age from 18 to 21 since September before the bill was passed into a law. Multiple states were in the process of passing similar laws before this nationwide law was passed.

Setting a national age limit at 21 is predicted to prevent addicting upcoming generations and to ease the tensions for those who want a full ban on nicotine products. While this age change is not necessarily going to prevent all younger people from using tobacco products, it is believed to decrease the amount of usage in the future.

“I think it’s a good idea to increase the age because so many high schoolers and even middle schoolers are getting tobacco products when they shouldn’t be, simply because they have 18 year old friends,” said Jessica Dent (’21). “Not many teens in school have friends that are 21, so I think it will help bring down teen smoking rates.”

Nearly all of adult smokers have tried a tobacco-based product, like a cigarette, before they were 21, and some even being before they were 18. Smokers who are in high school and some even at college age tend to rely on their older friends to supply them. Changing the age to 21 should decrease the number of students who start smoking earlier than 18 because they will not have a supplier.

Tobacco is highly addictive due to the active substance that is released which is nicotine. Normally people who begin smoking at a young age are more dependent in adulthood. “Given that tobacco is a dangerous and addictive drug, any action that makes it harder to obtain is a good thing,” said Swalve. “I think this is a good start but will definitely not solve all of the problems associated with nicotine and tobacco dependence.”

Most people begin smoking or vaping as a way to combat their stress or anger, to relax, and to improve mood and concentration. People who begin to smoke for these reasons tend to think one every now and then will not hurt them or get them addicted because they do not realize the effects tobacco truly has.

Long-term nicotine usage can lead to changes in the brain and nicotine withdrawal. “As with any drug, our brains adapt to alterations from the substance,” said Swalve. “With nicotine, our brain “expects” the drug to focus and remain alert.”

Many people who try to quit using tobacco products do not succeed the first time. On average, it takes about 2.7 times to try and stop, usually due to the withdrawal symptoms. “Withdrawal symptoms are intense: making people irritable, making it harder to focus, and leading to weight

gain,” said Swalve. “These negative symptoms make people far more likely to keep smoking and makes it very difficult to quit.”

Tobacco has been known to ruin lives and may never stop being used. Many people are very opinionated about the change on the law, but primarily for the “good reasons” that are coming out of it. However, many people took to the internet to compare the new age with things like war and other drugs, such as, alcohol. “If 18-year olds can fight for our country and vote, then they should be allowed to have a cigarette,” said Dent. “It’s like saying, ‘it’s okay to die in combat but not by [using] cigarettes.’”

While the change will take some time for some stores to switch over, others switched their purchasing rules immediately. It is said that a few other bills are in the works to change other laws at the moment regarding the issues this law is being compared to

Tensions rise between the U.S. and Iran


The start of the new year was the start to growing escalations in the Middle East. On Jan. 2, President Donald Trump ordered an airstrike that killed Qasem Soleimani—an Iranian military general. This took place at the Baghdad airport in Iraq.

A few days prior, on Dec. 31, 2019, there were protesters at the US Embassy located in Baghdad acting against the recent airstrikes that killed 25 members of the militia.

On Jan. 7, Iran launched 12 ballistic missiles at two military bases in Iraq. One of the bases that housed American forces, was hit with six of the missiles.

Another important event that has occurred regards the issue of war powers resolution. The House of Representatives voted 224-194 to limit Trump’s power on Jan. 9. This now moves to the Senate for a vote.

These events quickly took over the news cycles and raised concerns among citizens at first. Michael Marshall, a visiting assistant professor of political science, said that these events, called militarized interstate disputes, happen frequently.

“There are dozens of militarized interstate disputes between the U.S. and Canada for instance,” said Marshall. “Canada tries to see how far into the Great Lakes it can go before it meets resistance, and we do the same thing when we send drones over Canada. I don’t think we’re very close to a war.”

In the Middle East, this is what is occurring with the United States challenging Iran’s sovereignty and Iran reciprocating the actions said Marshall. The news has sensationalized the events and not given experts the chance to explain what is happening and how frequently it occurs. A major difference that Marshall cited is that the United States attacked a government official in another country violating more than Iran’s sovereignty.

Samuel Nelson (’21) said students should watch out for the corporate media and the shift in tone when getting the information.

“Most people had no clue who Soleimani was before he was assassinated, but now we are being told that he was public enemy number one,” said Nelson.

Marshall suggests that students read their news rather than watch it because it all comes from the same source material but frequently the rhetoric changes to allow the stations bias and analysis to keep the news fresh and enjoyable for viewers.

With the news surrounding this situation evolving constantly, Nelson reads the news and updates about it daily. He gets his information from reputable journalists associated with The Washington Post and The New York Times. He also pays attention to “well sourced reactions to their reporting.”

The future of the conflict is uncertain. In recent days, there was been no further escalations of the situation. This differs from the initial reaction on mass media that worried about further war and conflict, and some people opposed it.

“It is heartening to see online interactions between Iranians and Americans that reject calls for war,” said Nelson.

“Any militarized dispute could become a war typically caused by both sides playing brinkmanship,” said Marshall. Brinkmanship is when both sides push each other to the point they step down. This could lead to an accidental war as it has in the past. However, at the moment, the countries are at a tense peace.

The consequences of the issue has lead to a rise in the pro-democracy movements in Iran and has polarized political parties within the United States more than they previously were.

“Try to read the news not only from United States’ perspective but also a worldly perspective and understand the biases,” said Marshall. People should understand the historical, cultural and political background to the situation when examining the events from an outside perspective. They may also try to look at it from the other leader’s point-of-view.

“Understanding how and why is a better way to look at it than just saying they are crazy,” said Marshall. “No, they are rational actors attempting to survive and accumulate wealth and power just as we are as well as preserve our sovereignty.”

Fires rage through Australia bush


Fires have been burning through the country of Australia for months. International media outlets finally began discussing the natural disaster in December, with human deaths calculated at at least 27, and wildlife deaths estimated to be over one billion. Roughly 2000 homes have also been destroyed in the mix, along with entire animal habitats.

“I found myself glued to the news reports, unable to focus on anything else,” said Tracy Fuller, an Australian native living in Melbourne.

“Hearing people talk about it, it doesn’t seem real. It’s absolutely devastating to hear [about]”, added Kristy Hospes, another Aussie, who has been in the United States all throughout the time of the fires burning.

Australians are no strangers to fires, as they typically pop up during the dry season, which is their spring and summer. However, 2019 was the hottest and driest year on record, making them more susceptible to larger, more catastrophic fires. New South Wales and Victoria — both states on the southeastern side of the country — are the states that have witnessed the most devastation. New South Wales also happens to be the region’s most popular area for tourists, as the country’s largest city, Sydney, is located there.

“[The fires] are affecting the close surrounding areas to my home. Friends and family have just been cautious to follow the fires and have a plan ready and a place to evacuate [to] if it becomes necessary,” said Hospes.

Over 12 million acres of land have burnt in Australia so far, and it has yet to slow down due to the increasing temperatures. To put this in perspective, the country of Australia is similar in size to the continental United States, and the amount of land that has burnt is comparable to the size of Indiana. Therefore, if a fire of this size occurred in the United States, it would have the potential to wipe away an entire state.

In comparison to other recent wildfires, the California wildfires of 2018 burnt about 2 million acres, and the Amazon fires of 2019 burnt 2.2 million acres.

The government has been largely in question during these times, as many civilians believe they are not doing everything possible to keep them safe.

“People everywhere are talking about the fires, climate change [and] what the government should have done and how we can contribute to recovery,” said Fuller.

The bushfires in Australia have stirred up conversation concerning how their government views climate change, the biggest contributor to the fires. Their Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, refuses to prioritize climate change, and was on vacation in

Hawaii when the fires began to worsen. Many even feel as though Morrison abandoned them when they needed help the most.

Still, Australians are persistent and put up a united front.

“Everybody I know has donated in some way: [whether it be with] money, food [or] supplies,” said Fuller.

She also mentioned that businesses are donating their profits, and nurses and builders are working for no pay to help out. Facebook groups have also been created to help rehabilitate wildlife, some are even sewing pouches for baby kangaroos and koalas who lost their mothers.

“I know people are getting a lot of health issues due to the air quality, so I believe that’s going to be hard to adjust to [once the fires are contained],” said Hospes.

“[However,] the overall sense of community will be stronger, as everyone is doing everything they can to help those in need.”

The country of Australia is going through devastation like none could imagine, but the civilians have rallied together, and others from around the world are sending support, whether that be physical labor or with monetary funds. Still, no money will bring back the lives that have been lost, or the amount of loss that has already occurred.

Healthies shakes up downtown Alma


The Opera House has welcomed a new tenant in their street side business space. Healthies of Mid Mitten is a health shake bar.

The husband and wife duo of Michele and Ron Welch own Healthies. As friends of owners of a similar shake bar in Mt. Pleasant, they were encouraged to pursue their goal of opening one of their own.

Healthies, like the Mt. Pleasant location, is a Herbalife Nutrition Club, which means it is affiliated with the multi-level marketing organization, Herbalife Nutrition.

“A Herbalife Nutrition Club is a healthy place for people to stop in and grab breakfast, lunch, a snack and get energized with our teas or energy bombs,” said Michele Welch.

“Something healthy as opposed to driving through a fast food place and eating crude. It is also meant to be a positive place for people to come in to gather, make friendships, feel good about themselves or bless them with some positive energy on their way to work,” said Welch.

Welch has been doing weight loss challenges through Herbalife since 2009. She evolved this into community workouts in roughly 2012 to 2013. She also does a weekly friendship walk in the summer with an option of a 1.5 or 4.2-mile course to get people to be active and develop friendships at the same time.

“This is all stuff we want to incorporate in Alma just to get people feeling better,” said Michele Welch, speaking on incorporating her past fitness programs in with her new business.

Healthies is also looking to hire coaches to work independently through Herbalife to help clients who seek assistance in reaching their fitness goals.

“We train them [health coaches] on helping people to make healthy choices… they’ll coach clients through weight loss challenges or to gain weight… and coach people on what to eat and that will set them on Herbalife plans of Herbalife nutrition and tell them what to consume to help get those results,” said Michele Welch.

Healthies has also been working close with Alma College students, particularly athletes. For example, they did a fundraiser on Saturday, January 11 where for every combo purchased that day, one dollar was donated to the dance team.

“Overall it turned out pretty well, I went in there myself and there was a lot of people in there. And for my overall opinion of Healthies, I think it is pretty good and it is convenient having one here [in Alma] because I have been to the one in Mt. Pleasant and obviously that is a farther drive. I think it is a new cute little thing to add to downtown,” said Dance Team Member, Sara Scott (‘21).

Though Michele and her husband have good intentions of improving the health of the community, the Herbalife Nutrition company has faced continuous scrutiny from the legal and medical nutrition communities.

According to NPR, the Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint against Herbalife for deceiving consumers regarding the amount of profits that selling their products could earn. The FTC added that Herbalife distributors were making almost no money at all.

Even though the FTC did see this practice as deceptive, they did not go as far in there ruling as to label Herbalife Nutrition a pyramid scheme and, ultimately, allowed them to keep operating. This case was settled by Herbalife paying 200 million dollars in 2016 to reimburse consumers who lost money as distributors and agreeing to make changes in the way they do business.

“Our [Alma College’s] agreement is with a specific business not with Herbalife. I do not think it is really our place to tell them what products [to sell] as long as they are selling products that are legal,” said Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President Alan Gatlin, who leased the business space to the Healthies owners.

“They’ve [multilevel marketing companies] been around for decades and they are completely legal and a lot of people do well in those and some people don’t. They [Healthies] are not trying to get college students to become franchisees or to become marketers. I am dealing with a husband and wife team from St. Johns that seem like really nice people… it seems like a very legitimate business and so I don’t see any down side for our students from that,” said Gatlin.

The nutritional value of Herbalife products has also been questioned in the past. Meal replacement options tend to contain far less calories than the recommended intake. Various studies, cases, and news reports over the past few years have linked heavy usage of Herbalife products to potential liver failure although it is important to note no sustained causality has been found between the products and these health issues.

“As far as the meal replacement shakes, if you look on the internet at our respective website (WebMD), they will say the best way to lose weight is to eat a balanced diet of fresh fruits and vegetables but if you can’t do that because of your lifestyle, it will say having a shake or two a week is not a bad alternative,” said Gatlin.

Though Herbalife Nutrition as large organization brings with it a host of concerning questions, the intentions of Michele Welch and her husband, who did not return comment regarding Herbalife Nutrition’s past issues, seem focused on offering healthy options to Alma area residents.

The store is currently offering many promotions such as having customers pass out half-off coupons. Referring three customers through the coupon cards to make a purchase at the store will result in that person’s name being recognized on a board inside the store.

Healthies is also pushing word of mouth marketing and social media publicity by customers and of their own as a focus instead of paid advertising.

Healthies is open weekdays from 6:30AM until 7:00PM and weekends from 8:00AM until 3:00PM.

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