Arc of Justice, Faith Leaders + Electeds: End Sale of Flavored Tobacco in NY
Group Pushes Lawmakers to Act After Failing to Include Ban of Menthol Cigarettes & Other Flavored Tobacco Products in Budget Proposal
ALBANY, NY (03/21/2023) (readMedia)-- On Monday, President and CEO of The Arc of Justice, Reverend Kirsten Foy, faith leaders and Tobacco Kills NY – a diverse, statewide campaign of civil rights and health advocates, including the NAACP, faith-leaders, public health groups, and others – rallied at the State Capitol to urge lawmakers to pass ban on flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, after failing to include the measure in the budget proposal. The groups also dispelled the lies that banning menthol cigarettes will lead to the arrest of more Black and Brown New Yorkers. Both the City and State legislation contain strong language ensuring that only brick-and-mortar retailers are the focus of any enforcement actions, not individuals.
VIDEO HERE (credit Senate Media Services).
A recent poll out from Siena College showed a significant majority of New Yorkers surveyed were in favor of the proposed ban on menthol-flavored tobacco products, with 57% in favor versus 35% against. New Yorkers are also in favor of a one-dollar tax increase on cigarettes, with only a third of respondents against the measure, according to the poll.
Additionally, a new poll conducted by Global Strategy Group paid for by Tobacco Kills NY – a diverse, statewide campaign of civil rights and health advocates, including the NAACP, faith-leaders, public health groups, and others – showed that three-out-of-five Black and Latino New Yorkers support a ban on menthol-flavored tobacco products. Fifty-five percent of Black voters supported banning menthol with 42 percent opposed; and 72 percent of Latino voters supported with 27 percent opposed, according to the poll. Overall, 64 percent of New Yorkers favored ending the sale of flavored tobacco products in New York State. See cross tabs.
The proposed legislation restricting menthol (A3907/S2441) applies to commercial sales only - not street sales, use or possession - and explicitly states that police will not enforce the ban: "No enforcement agent, police officer, peace officer or other law enforcement officer may stop, question, search or arrest any person: (a) on grounds of or in relation to possession, consumption or purchase of any product subject to this section; or (b) for the purpose of inquiring or determining how or from what person or entity the person obtained any product subject to this section."
New York State made great strides to prevent youth tobacco use by restricting the sale of flavored e-cigarettes in 2020–but the new regulations still allowed other dangerous flavored tobacco products known to increase addiction to continue to be sold. Menthol cigarettes, which are much easier to smoke and more addictive than regular tobacco, are still available on shelves and the number one way Big Tobacco hooks young smokers and keeps Black New Yorkers addicted.
For generations, Big Tobacco has aggressively marketed flavored tobacco products to underage users and communities of color, creating disproportionately negative health outcomes for African-Americans in particular. In New York State, menthol cigarettes are used by over half of all adult smokers (52%). 86% of Black smokers and 72% of Hispanic smokers smoke menthols. Half of young people (ages 12-17) who had ever tried smoking start with menthol cigarettes. In 2021, 41.1% of high school smokers reported using menthol cigarettes.
"There's still time left in the budget for lawmakers to make the right choice and address a public health crisis that kills thousands of Black and Latino people, instead of siding with Big Tobacco. Menthol cigarettes are a cancer in our communities that were created and designed to kill us. Big Tobacco is so scared of losing 90,000 smokers who will stop if we ban menthol that they've resorted to fearmongering and a campaign of misinformation. Don't get it twisted: Cops will have zero role in enforcing this ban. There is just no stopping how low Big Tobacco will stoop to keep its market share at the cost of our communities, our families and our lives. It's time to ban menthol-flavored products once and for all," said President and CEO of The Arc of Justice, Reverend Kirsten Foy.