An estimated 17,000 annual U.S. deaths are attributed to illegal drugs — “the tip of the iceberg” of destruction. NPR just reported more than 30,000 Mexican deaths over five years in that smaller country’s drug war.

The greatest damage occurs farther beyond our borders, for example in destruction of the social fabrics of Colombia and Afghanistan.

Putting this “war on drugs” in the context of legal drugs, the Centers for Disease Control attribute about 440,000 annual deaths to tobacco while sources attribute another 85,000 annual deaths to alcohol.

The problem lies largely in calling this a “war” and responding with militarization, placing emphasis outside the contexts of civil law and civilian health care.

A sensible solution is to legalize all drugs and heavily tax the addictive ones, as with our present treatment of the big legal killers, tobacco and alcohol. Legalization can help where militarization fails.

Nonmilitaristic efforts such as workplace smoking bans and public education are proving effective against the No. 1 killer drug. contrast, criminalization and militarization skew the laws of supply and demand, leading to inflated prices and huge economic incentives to produce and market illegal drugs.

An army of seller-addicts, motivated beyond fear of arrest and incarceration, takes marketing directly into our streets and schools. Buyers in their rebellious teen years respond to the allure of the forbidden, transforming our control efforts into incentives toward addiction.

My own children were incredulous at what they regarded as bogus propaganda in the high school DARE program. Indeed, the “war on drugs” has distorted adult values and credibility among our children. An evenhanded approach to all addictive drugs would be more honest and effective.

Joseph B. Seale
Gorham 

Dispute over cable content shows disregard for public 

My wife and I subscribe to Time Warner and enjoy watching programs on CBS like NCIS and NFL football. As Jan. 1 approaches, both Time Warner (full-screen ads) and Channel 13 (a ribbon of print across the top of the screen) have warned us that we may not be able to continue receiving the station’s programming.

The Time Warner ads ask us to call WGME and tell them to accept Time Warner’s terms. The station’s ads ask us to do the reverse.

My perception of both these ads is that each side is using scare tactics on us, its customers and audience rather than providing us with a wide range of quality programming.

I may be too cynical, but neither side has shown us any financial information which indicates that it will not be able to reach an agreement with the other without losing money and laying off staff.

It is, I suspect, rather a case of each side not making as much of a profit as it would like. I understand the process of negotiations and have participated in quite a few, many of which were confrontational and unpleasant at times.

However, until I see the kind of data I mentioned above made public, both sides should stop insulting our intelligence and work diligently on their own to forge a settlement — one which continues to provide a fair profit for shareholders without compromising the service they provide to the public.

Thomas Wolf
Kennebunk

I found it rather funny today when I again saw the warning that Time Warner may not be carrying WGME after Jan. 1. They don’t say why, of course. However, since Time Warner has done this in the past when a dispute over contract renewal has occurred, one can only assume that Time Warner doesn’t want to pay what WGME’s corporate owner feels that it deserves for its programming.

The reason I found this funny is Time Warner just went up about $8 on my “Bridge Package” and I have no idea how much it went up on others who have more extensive — and expensive — packages!

Isn’t it funny that on one hand Time Warner is upset over what it considers excessive monetary demands by WGME, but on the other hand it feels that it has the right to charge us more money? For what? Is my Bridge Package going to expand? I think not.

Will I get better service for my money? I think not. As a matter of fact, I might actually get less (no WGME) for my extra $8 per month. When will someone control the monopoly called Time Warner? I know that satellite is an option for some, but not in my neighborhood.

Happy new year, everyone!

Steve C. Pomelow
Gorham 

Well, here I am again, Time Warner Cable. Remember me from last year? You did it again. Went up another 10 percent on my cable bill. That’s 20 percent in one year’s time.

Even though I’m retired, you still could care less about me and my retired friends who are members of the Maine State Retirement System and Social Security. Does that ring a bell?

That’s right — no raise from either system for two straight years. I’m sure you read about it. That still didn’t stop you from raising rates again, did it?

We retirees can’t afford these yearly raises just so we can watch the Red Sox. We don’t watch anything else because all channels are repeats and your commercial that says we enjoy watching your old movies over and over again is wrong. Why can’t you people sit down at your CEO’s table and figure out a package for us that we can afford and enjoy?

And please, would somebody tell Channel 13 that we already have a weather channel.

Harold Boothby
South Portland 

Missing hunter found with the aid of many 

My son was missing. He was hunting in Denmark with his uncle the week before Thanksgiving.

Scott is 20 years old and a recently diagnosed insulin-dependant diabetic. There were so many people involved with the search for him I wanted to thank you all.

The game wardens were notified after Scott was overdue by several hours. It had rained that morning and the river would be rising. The wardens arrived and an airboat was dispatched to search the river before dark. More family and friends arrived and continued to search all night.

We searched without success until about 4 a.m. and then napped for a couple of hours. At dawn the search resumed, more game wardens arrived, search dogs and their handlers, an airplane and the airboat. Family and friends were on standby.

The hard part was waiting. It wasn’t very warm but fortunately not raining or snowing. Scott was found by the airboat crew along the Saco River, cold and wet, but his blood sugar was 143. The ambulance crew checked him out and released him.

I feel truly blessed to have met such people. Thank you all.

Suzanne S. Cook
Brunswick