There is no question that reducing tobacco use is a worthwhile community goal.

Kids are healthier and do better in school, workers are more productive and health costs go down for all of us.

Public health experts are constantly developing new and innovative strategies to prevent youth smoking, but giving the tobacco industry veto power is never one of them.

That’s why it was so surprising to read your editorial suggesting that a petroleum industry representative should be on South Portland’s three-person panel that’s charged with designing a path forward for regulating tar sands activity (“Our View: Moratorium allows South Portland time to craft tar sands policy,” Dec. 18).

For the best result to emerge, this panel needs to be comprised of three even-handed and facts-oriented experts who can sift through the science and weigh the many community interests.

The process should be transparent and create opportunities for both businesses and members of the public to provide input.

It’s critical to remember that the roles of adviser and decider are distinctly different.

It would be counterproductive to fill this small panel with vested interests.

The result would be division, inertia and entrenched community conflict that will leave all sides feeling frustrated while never adequately addressing the many credible health and environmental concerns around bringing a tar sands project to Maine.

Would we ask the parent of a child with asthma to sit down with a tobacco industry lawyer and agree on a plan to make cigarettes less addictive?

Your editorial got it right that the tar sands moratorium is “a move in the right direction that … allows for regulations to arise from the lawmaking process.”

The stakes are too high – let’s not convene a panel that is doomed from the start.

Ed Miller

American Lung Association of the Northeast

Augusta office