The bill contains six key tobacco-use-prevention funding elements:
• $6.31 million to create 10 regional programs to cover all 100 counties.
• $200,000 toward youth leadership and involvement training.
• $190,000 for prenatal and neonatal outreach, education and training.
• $100,000 for a tobacco-free-campus initiative.
• $100,000 for a smoke-free, multi-unit housing initiative to protect children from secondhand smoke.
• $100,000 for tobacco use prevention program evaluation.
A bipartisan Senate bill would provide $7 million for tobacco-use-prevention programs, representing the first such state funding in four years.
Studies show that teenagers prefer to buy flavoured cigarettes with cherry, vanilla, chocolate tastes.
Senate Bill 662 was introduced Thursday by Sens. Stan Bingham, R-Davidson; Fletcher Flartsell Jr., R-Cabarrus; and Mike Woodard, D-Durham.
The $7 million would be appropriated for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 budget years. The funding would go to the N.C. Division of Health and Human Services and be earmarked for six categories.
The biggest would be $6.31 million to create 10 regional teen tobacco-use-prevention programs that would cover every county. The funding would create a full-time coordinator position in each region, as well as fund tobacco-use prevention programs in school districts and at county level, and pay to train teenagers to educate peers and community leaders on the programs.
An additional $190,000 would be dedicated toward prenatal and neonatal outreach, education and training.
In 2011, the General Assembly abolished the N.C. Health and Wellness Fund after 10 years of existence, as part of an attempt at resolving the state’s budget gap. The average annual spending on the programs had been about $17 million.
“I don’t know if I will be able to make progress with the bill, but it would be a shame not to try,” Bingham said.
“It is important for youths to know the facts as they approach adulthood, but whether they will listen is an individual choice. We have to develop a smarter message, because the taxpayers continue to help pay the burden when these folks have serious health issues down the road.”
Bingham said he believes the biggest hurdle to restoring funding “is that there are so many needs for so many things, and we as a legislative body have to decide upon our priorities. There will always be budget shortfalls.”