Discussion Intensifies On NY Flavored Tobacco Ban
The New York Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators recently held its annual caucus and discussed the issue of flavored tobacco with lawmakers, healthcare experts and social justice leaders.
The group says the tobacco industry has long targeted youth and minority populations with flavored products like menthol, addicting generations of tobacco users. Lorraine Braithwaite-Harte, health chair of the NAACP’s New York State Conference, says it’s a social justice issue. "Targeting young children. From the age of 10, 11, 12, 13, because they know that they will have them for a lifetime."
Democratic Brooklyn Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte sponsored one of two separate bills that would eliminate the sale of all flavored tobacco — both electronic and combustible products — including menthol.
"What the concern is, as we're looking to ban vaping, flavor e-vaping, many of these children are now turning to flavored tobacco, which is a big concern and it shows that the majority of them are black kids. And it also shows that, even currently, that adults, 85 to 90 percent of black adults who smoke cigarettes, they smoke menthol," said Bichotte.
Delmonte Jefferson is the executive director of the National African-American Tobacco Prevention Network. "There are 15,000 different flavors that have been hooking and addicting kids in minority populations and do by constantly putting the word out there and raising the awareness, I think at that point in time we'll get our communities mobilized to finally address it."
"85 to 90 percent of black adults who smoke cigarettes, they smoke menthol." ~ Democratic Brooklyn Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte
Bichotte added "The governor had mentioned the possibility of banning menthol. We're just hoping that we can get enforcement language clear as well as getting all state senate and all assembly members, a majority on board. He actually said that he will sign it."
For his part, Governor Andrew Cuomo is pressing on, now proposing a bill to allow the state Health Department to regulate vaping oils and limit online sales of vaping products. "Now we just have to get it passed, and I want my colleagues to know in the legislature to know, in the Assembly and the Senate, this is literally a matter of life an death. Literally every day more kids are getting addicted. And this is a top priority, I've included it in my budget. One way or the other, by April 1, this has to become law and there is no excuse for it."
For Bichotte, the issue is personal. "My dad died at 73. He was addicted to menthol cigarettes. He smoked day and night. He was a musician. He used to play the saxophone. And over time he saw that deteriorated largely due to his smoking. And unfortunately, my mother also started smoking as a result of my dad smoking. And currently my mother, she was in and out of the hospital due to congestive heart failure. I may have been impacted too, because for a long time, I was inhaling secondhand smoke."
In January a judge blocked New York state from enforcing an executive order banning flavored vaping products. The FDA is banning the sale of flavored e-cigarettes except for the menthol and tobacco-flavored varieties.