NAACP Urges Council Speaker Johnson to Act on Delayed Menthol Restrictions

Leaders argue Big Tobacco has targeted and hooked their community for decades using easier-to-smoke harder-to-quit menthol cigarettes

NEW YORK, NY (03/05/2020) (readMedia)-- Today, members of the NAACP, NAACP NY Statewide President Hazel Dukes, and City Council Member Fernando Cabrera joined together to urge Council Speaker Corey Johnson to pass Intro. 1345--legislation supported by the vast majority of the City Council that will restrict the sale of menthol cigarettes in New York City.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced two weeks ago that he would not push legislation to restrict the sale of menthol cigarettes. His refusal to back the State legislation leaves New York City on its own to protect its communities from menthol.

The City Council passed legislation banning flavored e-cigarettes four months ago, but a vote on legislation to protect kids and communities of color from easier-to-smoke harder-to-quit menthol cigarettes has been blocked by Speaker Johnson for more than a year. Two-thirds of the City Council and the majority of the Council's Black, Latino and Asian Caucus support the legislation. The U.S. House of Representatives also passed legislation banning menthol cigarettes last month--but the Republican-led Senate is unlikely to do the same.

"Since the City Council banned flavored e-cigarettes, but not menthol cigarettes, at least 1,500 New Yorkers have died from smoking-related illnesses--and those deaths are mostly black and brown brothers and sisters," said Andre Richardson, Campaign Manager for Flavors Hook Kids NYC. "We must stand up to Big Tobacco and protect the health of kids and African-American communities. How many more have to die before the Speaker calls a vote on a menthol ban?"

"This is a personal issue for me. Just last year my son had a major lung operation from smoking. For me this is personal. I've known too many people whose lives have been lost because of this. And so we're determined not only on the city level but also on the state to see these bills passed," said Hazel Dukes, President of the NAACP New York State Conference.

"I applaud the U.S. House of Representatives for taking the moral high ground by voting to ban the sale of all flavored tobacco, including menthol cigarettes. Unfortunately, this is where Congressional action on this issue will likely end. Without Governor Cuomo's support, it's now left up to those of us in the New York City Council to do the right thing and ban menthol cigarettes," said Council Member Cabrera. "The numbers are in and have been for decades. Menthol hooks more kids and kills more African-Americans and this needs to end. My bill, Intro. 1345, which would prohibit the sale of menthol tobacco cigarettes has a supermajority of support in the Council. We are in position to take real leadership on this issue and save lives. I'm calling on Speaker Corey Johnson to pass this bill."

"We cannot allow Big Tobacco to continue profiting at the expense of the health and well being of our youths. The tobacco industry designs menthol cigarettes as a "starter product." In NYC 85 percent of Black smokers and 64 percent of Latino smokers use menthol cigarettes. The NAACP NYS Conference urges legislators to pass NYC intro 1345 to protect African American communities and other demographic groups where menthol flavored tobacco products are aggressively and disproportionately marketed," said Lorraine Braithwaite-Harte, 1st Vice President of the Brooklyn NAACP and the NAACP New York State Conference Health Chair.

In New York City, 84.8 percent of Black adults and 63.8 percent of Latino adults who smoke use menthol cigarettes, as compared to 22.6 percent of white adults. More than half of youth smokers and seven-out-of-ten young African Americans smoke menthols. Studies have shown that menthols are more addictive than regular cigarettes, and that Big Tobacco purposely targeted African-American communities with aggressive marketing, leading to higher rates of smoking-related illnesses for black New Yorkers.

Last month, Flavor Hooks Kids NYC campaign released three 30-second ads featuring Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte, along with two other New Yorkers, sharing their personal stories about losing a parent to diseases related to menthol cigarette addiction. At the end of the ad, they all call on the City Council to immediately ban menthol cigarettes.

More than 200 local and national organizations support Intro. 1345, as well as African-American city leaders such as former Mayor David Dinkins, NAACP New York Chapter President Hazel Dukes, NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray and Rep. Gregory Meeks. The de Blasio Administration supports the legislation as well.

Members of the Flavors Hook Kids NYC coalition include: Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, NY NAACP, Parents Against Vaping e-cigarettes (PAVe), African American Clergy and Elected Official organization (AACEO), American Cancer Society Action Network (ACS CAN), New York Communities for Change, American Cancer Society Action Network, the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council NAATPN, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Neighbors in Action, Last Call Church, United Concerned Citizens, NYPIRG.