As Black Law Enforcement professionals, We agree that the health of Black people in Westchester is a concern. Yes, there is a crisis in healthcare, obesity, cancer, and other chronic and seriously fatal illnesses.
However, a menthol ban that only punishes only Westchester’s Black population while Westchester’s white population lives are unaffected is biased and, some might say, outright racist.
It is good to see the NACCP State Office in Westchester County; the NAACP has a long history of fighting for equal rights. But unfortunately, their eyes are wide shut to the inequality of this legislation. In addition, when it comes to issues of Public Safety, the NAACP is not equipped to discuss these issues; historically, organizations like the NAACP have often referred to Black Law Enforcement Professionals and organizations for recommendations.
Unfortunately, all Black Law Enforcement organizations, including the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, have said that this ban is a bad idea, that the bill is biased, will feed the black market, and will create the new stop-and-frisk.
The Westchester County government has received a plethora of letters and statements from various Law Enforcement Professionals, including a retired Alcohol Tabaco and Firearms (ATF) Agent. But still, the Health Committee did not do their due diligence to have Law Enforcement Agencies like the District Attorney’s Office, the ATF, and the Westchester County Chiefs Association testify on any unintended consequences to public safety before it came out of committee.
By no means do we support smoking, but to push a political agenda of a menthol ban down the throat of the public when according to the CDC, cigarette smoking is at an all-time low. This is a prime example of how government overreaches to the rights of a people to have a choice.
It’s also disingenuous for the county and the NAACP to use the narrative of the effect of smoking on children when the county has already made it illegal for stores to sell cigarettes to anyone under 21. If the county is admitting that there is a problem with children easily obtaining cigarettes, then they are willfully admitting that the black market and illegal sales are out of control in the county.
Article 13-F Section 1399-CC of the NYS Public Health Law prohibited the sale of tobacco and vapor products and smoking paraphernalia to people under the age of 21. The county-proposed legislation is more symbolism and substance.
According to County Legislator James Nolan, by passing this Menthol Ban, Westchester County is willing to throw away $36 million in Sales Tax Revenue on menthol-flavored cigarettes. The County collects an additional $5 million on other flavored tobacco products.
If Westchester County is serious about Black people in Westchester’s health and wellness, they should put their money where their mouth is!
Take the 40 million in tax revenue and invest in health and wellness programs, making sure Black communities, especially our Black seniors have access to fresh fruits and vegetables, investing in outreach for nicotine patches and gum, and educating on the dangers of smoking.
Let us not forget, a Westchester City, with a population of 80 thousand and 80 percent Black people, hasn’t had a fully functioning hospital for over a decade. This should have been considered a public health emergency a long time ago! But our County legislators are silent, and the NAACP State Office has also been AWOL in that discussion!
Again, if passed, County Executive George Latimer must VETO this legislation.
Damon K. Jones
Blacks In Law Enforcement of America