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By Taylor Knopf

While cigarette smoking has decreased among young people, the use of electronic cigarettes is rising.

In response, North Carolina lawmakers filed House Bill 276 on Wednesday, which would put $17 million a year toward preventing young people from using “new and emerging tobacco products.”

Primary bill sponsor Rep. Donny Lambeth, a Forsyth County Republican, said it’s a “pay now or pay more later” situation.

North Carolina spends $3.81 billion in annual healthcare costs caused by smoking, he said. The state is hit by an additional $4.24 billion in smoking-related productivity losses each year, he claimed.

“Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable deaths in our state,” Lambeth said in a press conference at the General Assembly on Wednesday. “Let’s invest $17 million and prevent 180,000 young people from dying prematurely from smoking-related diseases.”

The money would come out of the state’s general fund, which Lambeth said receives $140 million each year from the tobacco Master Settlement Agreement signed in 1999. States receive settlement fees from cigarette manufacturers to reimburse them for Medicaid money spent treating smoking-related illnesses.

North Carolina funded the Tobacco. Reality. Unfiltered. teen smoking prevention program with this same amount of money from 2001 to 2012 through the now-defunct Health and Wellness Trust Fund. When the fund was eliminated in 2012, so was the program.

2015 data from the Youth Tobacco Survey show about 13 percent of North Carolina  high school students smoke traditional cigarettes while 29 percent use e-cigarettes. That’s up from only 7.7. percent of high school students who were using e-cigarettes in 2013.

Andrea Boakye,a 20-year-old representative with Youth Empowered Solutions who spoke at the press conference, said that young people are not educated on the dangers or alternative smoking products.

“My generation is being misinformed about the nicotine and tobacco presences in hookah, e-cigarettes, vapes and other similar nicotine delivery products,” she said. “Vaping is seen as a healthier alternative to smoking. It’s not.”

Boakye added that her generation is also being targeted by “heavy advertisements and child-like flavors that attract a young crowd.”

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Taylor Knopf

Taylor Knopf writes about mental health, including addiction and harm reduction. She lives in Raleigh and previously wrote for The News & Observer. Knopf has a bachelor's degree in sociology with a...

One reply on “Advocates: Time to Fund Tobacco Cessation Again”

  1. I’d like to begin by thanking you for your work in public health, improving the overall health of populations in North Carolina.
    Unfortunately, when it comes to this specific issue, your article is misguided. For example, in your article you wrote “My generation is being misinformed about the nicotine and tobacco presences in hookah, e-cigarettes, vapes and other similar nicotine delivery products,” she said. “Vaping is seen as a healthier alternative to smoking. It’s not.”
    I would like to ask that you do more research on the subject, and even cite which research you base your assertions on. One particular cite you can start with:
    https://quitsmokingcommunity.org/how-to-quit-smoking/vaping-vs-smoking/

    “According to a report sponsored by UK’s Department of Health and published by Public Health England – a prestigious group of highly qualified scientists, researchers and public health professionals – electronic cigarettes are at least 95 percent safer than tobacco cigarettes. The report also recognizes their potential as a viable approach to quitting smoking. ”

    A well-informed public health policy that is independent of politics is essential in improving the health of our population. Thank you.

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