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2002 News from Mecklenburg County

December 20, 2002


Charlotte, NC – The Mecklenburg County Health Department plans to share the wealth, so to speak, spreading money from a new grant among schools, student organizations and community groups working to curb teen tobacco use.

The $300,000 grant from the Health and Wellness Trust Fund Commission will be awarded over three years at $100,000 per year. Project ASSIST—the Health Department's smoking cessation program—will work directly with partners interested in funding prevention activities.

Through this grant program, the Health Department hopes to develop culturally specific models for tobacco use prevention and increase the number of local young people who are trained in peer anti-tobacco programs.  It also aims to work with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School system to strengthen the language of its tobacco use policy, allowing no tobacco use by students and visitors on campus or at school-sponsored events.

Tobacco use is the number one preventable cause of premature death and disease in North Carolina and in the U.S.  While tobacco use among adults has leveled off, the number of young people using tobacco continues to climb.  About 38 percent of N.C. high school students and 18 percent of middle school students smoke cigarettes or use smokeless tobacco. That's a 41 percent increase in just the last six years.

Those numbers are even more alarming among Mecklenburg County's minority youth.  According to the county's Substance Abuse Prevention Services, 33.2 percent of African-Americans, 47.6 percent of Native Americans and 44.7 percent of Hispanics use tobacco.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that, unless something is done to change these numbers, 165,000 North Carolina youth will die prematurely. 

In order to qualify for a share of this grant money, the Health Department will require recipients to go through an application process, showing how the money would be used and how success of the program would be measured.  The Department will work with applicants to develop ideas and projects for tobacco use prevention. 

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