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NC budget provides new funding for tobacco prevention, megasites

North Carolina’s tobacco-cessation initiatives are receiving a $22.5 million funding boost from the 2023-24 state budget bill, courtesy of North Carolina’s $40 million settlement with electronic cigarette manufacturer Juul Labs.

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Meanwhile, the Republican-sponsored bill increases the number of state megasites from five to seven, and expands which industries are priority recruitments.

The budget provides $11.25 million in both fiscal years 2023-24 and 2024-25 to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services from the Youth Electronic Nicotine Dependence Abatement Fund. All but $750,000 will go toward funding “evidence-based electronic cigarette and nicotine dependence prevention and cessation activities targeting students in grades 4 through 12,” according to House Bill 259.

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The $750,000 is dedicated to independent evaluation of the initiatives’ effectiveness in reducing youth usage of tobacco products.

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In June 2021, Juul agreed to pay the $40 million over six years to settle a legal complaint by state Attorney General Josh Stein. Two years prior, Stein filed a lawsuit targeting Juul’s business and marketing practices, most notably accusing the cigarette manufacturer of violating the state’s Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

North Carolina was the first state “to successfully hold Juul accountable for its role in spiking teen use and dependence on e-cigarettes,” according to Stein.

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The Juul settlement likely eased any pressure to act on another bipartisan attempt to provide dedicated annual state funding for tobacco-prevention programs.

The latest attempt — Senate Bill 116, titled “2023 Youth END (End nicotine dependency) Act“ — has not been acted up by the Senate Appropriations committee. The bill faced a daunting challenge considering similar bipartisan bills filed in 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2021 were not heard either in the House or Senate.

As for megasites, the state budget bill provides $97.8 million to support a program called the Megasites Readiness program for up to seven sites containing more than 1,000 acres.

It also provides $10 million toward reviewing up to a potential 15 sites with fewer than 1,000 acres.

It’s all an attempt to lure another major company to the state.

The two funding initiatives comes as many of the state’s highest-profile megasites have found tenants and occupants in the region.

Boom Supersonic at Piedmont Triad International Airport, representing a capital investment of $500 million with a pledge of 1,750 jobs.Toyota North Carolina in Liberty with a pledge of having at least 2,100 employees at full production, ranking it among the largest economic-development recruitment projects in North Carolina history.Wolfspeed, which is bringing a semiconductor manufacturing plant in Siler City. The deal represents a $5 billion investment with a pledge of 1,800 jobs.VinFast with its first North American electric vehicle assembly and battery manufacturing plant, representing a $1 billion investment in Chatham County with a pledge of 7,500 jobs.

“North Carolina cannot go on autopilot and take economic development success for granted. Other states are increasing their marketing budgets, including expanded initiatives to attract new foreign direct investments from Europe and Asia,” said John H. Boyd, founder and principal with global site-selection firm The Boyd Co. of Boca Raton, Fla.

Boyd said that with concerns about the national economy, rising inflation, supply-chain costs and interest-rate increases, “North Carolina needs to aggressively promote its low-operating costs by national standards.”

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