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A final vote is expected in the House Wednesday on a package of tax changes that would among other things place a new tax on e-cigarettes.

Bill backers say the levy  – 5 cents per milliliter of liquid – has the support of the tobacco industry. But Mecklenburg County Democrat Rep. Becky Carney urged her colleagues to pull the e-cigarette portion out of the omnibus tax bill and allow for further debate.

Carney argued that the nickel tax was well-below the 45-cent-per-pack tax on traditional cigarettes.

“If we’re going to tax something, are we doing it to our greatest advantage? Yeah, a nickel is great for the industry, of course,  that’s low. But what about those revenues in North Carolina that we potentially will lose and that we could bring in?” said Rep. Carney.

“I think we’ve kicked the tobacco industry around enough, maybe we owe them a little deference,” countered Cabarrus County Republican Rep. Larry Pittman.

Orange County Rep. Verla Insko also argued that the level of this new tax and the impact on teenage smokers warranted further discussion.

Carney’s amendment ultimately failed Tuesday, keeping the e-cigarette measure as part of the broader tax bill.

One more vote and the bill heads to the Senate. To hear a portion of Tuesday’s debate on House Bill 1050, click below. To learn more about the FDA’s take on e-cigarettes, click here.

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Tobacco fieldInstead of thinking up new and creative ways to downsize and privatize government, shred the social safety net and just generally make life harder for the 99%, here’s the kind of issue that North Carolina lawmakers ought to be addressing forcefully during the 2014 legislative session:

A new report is out that once again highlights the dangerous working conditions for children in the North Carolina tobacco industry.

As WRAL reports here, the good people at Human Rights Watch released a report today documenting the hazards. The authors of “Tobacco’s Hidden Children: Hazardous Child Labor in United States Tobacco Farming” interviewed child tobacco workers in North Carolina Read More

Lunch Links

For your Wednesday lunch today-

Science:

  • Bill Nye, my childhood science mentor via PBS, debated Ken Ham last night on the science of evolution vs. creationism. Ham is the president of the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, where the debate took place and was livestreamed. Um, yeah. Mashable has a recap here.
  • You can also watch the debate on youtube, embeded below.

  • We have our own share of science-deniers here in the Tar Heel state… The N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences denied to show a documentary Shored Up, about the impacts of climate change on places like our lovely Outer Banks, also one of my personal favorite places in the world… But hey, you can still catch it tonight at NCSU or tomorrow at Full Frame Theatre in Durham. More here from WRAL.
  • Trailer below.

Health and Technology:

  • Rumor has it Apple hired an expert on sleep research, Dr. Roy J.E.M. Raymann, onto its team developing the ‘iWatch’ project. So I guess you better watch out cause soon Santa will not be the only one who sees you when you’re sleeping. More here from The Telegraph.
  • Read More

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Smoking banWe told you so.

The Wilmington Star-News reminds us this morning of something that common sense made clear years ago – namely that the silly, Chicken Little complaints from the right wing about North Carolina’s ban on smoking in restaurants and bars a couple years back were just that. To quote the Star-News:

“Fear is a powerful force, but it often is exercised prematurely and, in hindsight, without justification. That was certainly true in the case of North Carolina’s hard-fought ban on smoking in bars, restaurants and other public buildings.

When the state that King Tobacco once ruled went smoke-free four years ago, there was a predictable if understandable outcry from some bar and restaurant owners, who worried that business would plummet if people couldn’t smoke inside. It didn’t happen, much in keeping with the experiences of other states that have implemented public smoking bans.

People still eat out. They still go to bars. And maybe even in some cases, these establishments have attracted new patrons because smoking is not allowed.”

To make things even better, the smoking ban has had a wonderfully beneficial impact on health Read More

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From the good folks at the NC Alliance for Health:

Raleigh – Fifteen years after the 1998 state tobacco settlement, North Carolina ranks 45th in the nation in funding programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit, according to a national report released by a coalition of public health organizations.

North Carolina currently spends $1.2 million a year on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, which is 1.1 percent of the $106.8 million recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Read More