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Home » News » New York State » Hochul’s proposed ban on flavored tobacco called discriminatory

Hochul’s proposed ban on flavored tobacco called discriminatory

Governor Kathy Hochul has proposed a ban on flavored tobacco, including menthol cigarettes, and an increase in the state tax on all packs of cigarettes by $1. While some have praised the move as a step toward reducing tobacco-related deaths and healthcare costs to taxpayers, others argue it will disproportionately affect people of color, who are more likely to smoke menthol products.

At a press conference at New York City Hall on Thursday, Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner who died at the hands of police in 2014, spoke out against the proposed ban, arguing that it would unfairly impact communities of color. Carr said, “Because we know that 85% of our people of color in our communities smoke menthol cigarettes. They are only calling for a ban on menthol cigarettes, they are not calling for a ban on all cigarettes.”

Democratic State Sen. Brad Hoylman of Manhattan countered that big tobacco has targeted communities of color and LGBTQ communities in their marketing campaigns, and that any reduction in tobacco-related deaths is a good thing.

However, others have raised concerns that the ban on menthol cigarettes could lead to stepped-up enforcement and interactions with law enforcement, which could have dire consequences. Marianne Hopkins, whose son was killed by police in Maryland in 1999, said, “So, we don’t want to add another opportunity by banning menthol cigarettes for interactions with law enforcement that could potentially end up as a situation as Gary Hopkins. As a situation of George Floyd. As Eric Garner. And the list goes on and on.”

Despite the controversy, community leaders, including Hazel Dukes, president of the New York State NAACP, have held their own event in support of the governor. Dukes dismissed concerns about increased police interactions resulting from the ban, calling them “one of the biggest lies.”

It remains to be seen whether the ban on flavored tobacco, including menthol cigarettes, will be implemented. However, experts note that smoking anything is detrimental to health, and reducing smoking rates overall could have long-term health benefits.