LEXINGTON COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) -Tuesday, Lexington County Council members will discuss offering tax breaks to the e-cigarette company, JUUL, which is bringing a new assembly plant to the Midlands. This will be the council’s third and final reading on the proposed tax breaks during Tuesday’s meeting.
Because e-cigarettes can contain nicotine and other harmful ingredients, there have been some concerns surrounding the industry and especially its appeal to youth. Even so, Lexington County Council Chair, Scott Whetstone, says on behalf of the council that, “we are extremely energized about this new venture with JUUL Labs, which will bring 500 jobs and additional economic growth to our County. We know that Lexington County provides favorable economic conditions for all industries and this partnership and announcement is a testament to that fact. We see the potential for JUUL Labs to experience continued success and growth in our County.”
The announcement came in May that the company will be investing more than $125 million for the new facility.
E-cigarettes entered the U.S. marketplace around 2007 and according to the U.S. Surgeon General the device can be used as a way to reduce the risks associated with regular cigarettes, but this is only for adults who completely switch over from using cigarettes to electronic devices.
E-cigarettes, however, are not recommended for teenagers, but there is still a growing trend among this age group. Just last year, the Surgeon General released an advisory warning of a teen vaping epidemic. E-cigarette use among middle and high school students in the U.S. has increased by 900% between 2011 and 2015.
Rebecca Jacobson is the executive director of a statewide nonprofit determined to protect South Carolinians from the dangers of smoking and tobacco use, Smoke Free SC. Jacobson says one of the main issues is people simply not knowing enough about the product.
“Somewhere around 60% of youth who are using e-cigarettes don’t even know that there’s nicotine in them. They think it’s just this cool thing, they’re vaping some kind of water vapor with some kind of flavors in it. Parents of teenagers really don’t have all the information they need to have and we hear over and over again parents saying, ‘well, it’s not as bad as cigarettes so we’re not going to worry about it.”
According to the Surgeon General, between 2017 and 2018 there was a 78% increase among high school students who use the devices – some who may not even know that the product contains high levels of nicotine. A typical JUUL cartridge or pod contains the same amount of nicotine as 20 regular cigarettes.
Jacobson tells WIS-TV that she’s not against JUUL coming to the Midlands, but thinks they can do more to protect our youth.
“We’d like to see a stronger stance of corporate responsibility. We believe that JUUL has the resources and the ability and the marketing savvy to do something really impactful all over this country – as well as of course right here in South Carolina if they’re going to be here in our backyard – to really get the message out to parents and teens that teenagers should not be anywhere near these things,”Jacobson said.
In a statement released shortly after the announcement of the new facility heading to Lexington County, JUUL Labs Chief Executive Officer Kevin Burns said, “We are excited to work with community leaders to support the creation of high-quality American jobs for a diverse and inclusive workforce drawn from across the Midlands as we continue to invest in helping adult smokers switch from combustible cigarettes and combatting youth usage.”
Lexington County Council will meet at 4:30 PM to discuss potential tax breaks for JUUL.