Gov. Kathy Hochul wants to ban flavored tobacco, including menthol cigarettes. But some critics say the proposed move will disproportionately target people of color.
Hochul is targeting smokers with a proposed new $1 tax on all packs of cigarettes — raising it up from the current state tax of $4.35 a pack.
But the plan also goes a step further, banning the use of flavored tobacco, including the more targeted market of those who smoke menthol cigarettes.
What You Need To Know
- Gov. Kathy Hochul wants to ban flavored tobacco including menthol cigarettes
- New York would join Massachusetts and California with the ban
- Some believe that ban will discriminate against people of color
Some believe that will adversely affect people of color, who are the major smokers of menthol products. Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner who died at the hands of police in 2014 when he was selling illegal cigarettes on Staten Island, spoke out against the proposal at a press conference at New York City Hall Thursday.
“The menthol ban, all it is going to do is impact our 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.”
But supporters of the governor’s plan say any reduction in tobacco-related deaths is a good thing, not only for saving lives but also for reducing healthcare costs to taxpayers.
“Well, I think what’s unfair is that big tobacco had targeted both communities of color and LGBTQ communities in their pernicious marketing campaign,” says Democratic State Sen. Brad Hoylman of Manhattan. “They’ve hooked generations of New Yorkers on cigarettes. And they are continuing to try and do that.”
Some have also raised concerns that when you ban certain types of cigarettes, it can lead to stepped up enforcement, which comes with risk.
“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,” says Marianne Hopkins, whose son Gary was killed by police in Maryland in 1999. “As a situation of George Floyd. As Eric Garner. And the list goes on and on.”
In response to the City Hall press conference questioning the proposed ban on menthol cigarettes, community leaders held their own event in support of the governor.
“So the big lie is that the police are going to be coming into our community if we get rid of menthol cigarettes, is one of the biggest lies,” said Hazel Dukes, president of the New York State NAACP. “They are lying like Trump.”
Critics say the state is showing hypocrisy here. Only recently it began supporting marijuana sales, while at the same time now trying to ban menthol cigarettes. Experts say smoking anything is not particularly good for your health.