WHITE PLAINS – Following the Westchester County Board of Legislators’ vote today to pass legislation to end the sale of flavored tobacco products, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids released the following statement, attributable to Kevin O’Flaherty, Director of Advocacy for the Northeast Region.
“Today, the Westchester County Board of Legislators voted to end the sale of flavored tobacco products. Not only will this landmark legislation save lives by protecting kids from the deadly consequences of smoking, but it also promises to advance health equity throughout the County. We urge County Executive George Latimer to sign the bill into law without delay.
“By taking flavored tobacco products off shelves, Westchester County will help to reverse decades of racially unjust practices by Big Tobacco. Through aggressive marketing campaigns across the nation, including targeted communities of color in the County, Big Tobacco has long preyed on Black communities as a key demographic for menthol-flavored cigarettes, which are uniquely addictive, hard to quit, and cheap. These predatory practices forced generations of kids into a lifelong struggle with tobacco addiction and vaulted smoking-related illnesses into the number one cause of death for Black Americans, killing more people than AIDS, car crashes, alcohol, illegal drugs, murders, and suicides combined.
“This bill will go a long way in protecting the health of the Black community, while ensuring that not a single individual will be targeted or criminalized for using or possessing flavored tobacco products. All enforcement of the bill will be left to the Westchester County Department of Health, who will only issue fines to businesses that sell flavored tobacco products in retail establishments.
“This legislation will also strengthen the existing state law around e-cigarettes, and thus help to combat the broader e-cigarette epidemic among adolescents and young adults. In New York, an alarming 22.3% of high school students use e-cigarettes, with most preferring to use tobacco flavored with fruit, candy, desserts, mint, or menthol. Without bold action like the legislation passed today to address this epidemic, it’s estimated that 280,000 kids who are now under the age of 18 and alive in New York will ultimately die prematurely from smoking.
“We commend Health Committee Chair Jewel Williams Johnson for her leadership and the Board of Legislators for standing up to Big Tobacco by voting to pass this commonsense legislation that will help prevent countless New York kids from getting hooked on tobacco.”