House Bill 543, which aims to reduce youth dependency on nicotine, was moved to the N.C. House rules committee on April 3. If passed, the bill will become effective on July 1, 2023.
Named the “Youth End Nicotine Dependence Act,” or “Youth END Act,” H.B. 543 would establish the Tobacco Use Prevention Fund to study and prevent youth access to and dependence on tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes.
While electronic cigarettes do not contain tobacco, they contain nicotine, which comes from tobacco. For this reason, the Food and Drug Administration considers them tobacco products.
N.C. Rep. Maria Cervania (D-Wake), a primary sponsor of the bill, said she wants to increase awareness of the use of tobacco in the state and research its effect on public health.
“It just surprised me that even though over the past 20 years we've had the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, we haven't spent hardly any money to help any of the use or misuse of tobacco, and now vaping,” Cervania said.
In North Carolina, 27.3 percent of youth use tobacco products, according to the bill.
The legislation would aim to prevent the use of emerging tobacco products and e-cigarettes, as well as track tobacco use and exposure among young people and others most at risk for tobacco use.
In a tobacco use report by the American Lung Association released on Jan. 24, 2023, North Carolina received an “F” grade in all categories: funding for state tobacco prevention programs, strength of smoke-free air laws, level of state tax on tobacco products, access to cessation services and restrictions on flavored tobacco products.
“Tobacco has really harmful effects on the lungs and contains a lot of toxic chemicals,” UNC nursing student Nicole Mercer said. “This bill is really important because tobacco is currently too accessible to teenagers, which promotes its use, and so with more regulation it will be less accessible and hopefully, less used.”