BOL Chairwoman, NAACP NY Conf and The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids Express Disappointment of CE Latimer Decision To Veto Menthol Ban

BOL Chairwoman Catherine Borgia shared her disappointment of CE Latimer decision to veto Local Law Intro. No 461-2022 banning menthol cigarettes and flavored tobacco.

“While I, and most of my colleagues, are disappointed with the County Executive’s veto of the law banning flavored tobacco passed last week by the Board of Legislators, I am proud of the hard work of this body and public health advocates for pushing the conversation forward, and advancing the legislation further than before.

I am encouraged by County Executive Latimer’s commitment of $3 million towards a new Westchester Tobacco-Free Program and look forward to working with his administration to make it a success. The announcement of this program shows that we have moved the needle forward. We will continue to work for a healthier Westchester.”

The NAACP New York State Conference released the following statement, attributable to Dr. Hazel Dukes, President of the NAACP New York State Conference, in response to CE Latimer’s veto.

“I am deeply disappointed in County Executive George Latimer’s decision to veto legislation that would have ended the sale of menthol cigarettes and prevented thousands of Black New Yorkers’ deaths. Latimer — instead of siding with public health — aligned himself with the tobacco industry, using their own misleading talking points to exploit very real concerns about over-policing in our community. 

“This law would have explicitly taken the authority away from police to enforce restrictions on Menthol sales, so any suggestion otherwise is both wrong and an excuse to preserve the tobacco industry’s continued ability to profit off of the deaths of black people. Education, while important, is not going to undo decades of predatory tactics used by the tobacco industry to hook young black people on something that will kill them. This is an embarrassment for Westchester County, and I am hopeful other jurisdictions will be smarter and put the health of their residents first.”

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids released the following statement, attributable to Kevin O’Flaherty, Director of Advocacy for the Northeast Region, in response to veto.

“We are deeply disappointed by Westchester County Executive Latimer’s decision to veto vital legislation to end the sale of flavored tobacco products in Westchester County. With this veto, County Executive Latimer missed a tremendous opportunity to take an important step towards protecting the health and safety of young people and communities of color in New York. 

“For too long, the tobacco industry has relentlessly targeted Black communities – particularly Black youth – with flavored tobacco products. They’ve unleashed aggressive marketing campaigns and deceptive advertising and made menthol cigarettes widely available and extremely cheap. They’ve pushed out kid-friendly flavors that mimic desserts or candies to get kids hooked on nicotine, enticing them to a lifelong struggle with addiction. 

BOL Chair Borgia applaud Legislator Jewel Williams Johnson, Chair of the Health Committee effort in getting the bill passed.

“I applaud my colleague, Legislator Jewel Williams Johnson of District 8, for her steadfast leadership and tenacity in getting the bill passed through our Board during her first year as a legislator. I am confident that she will continue the conversation in the Health Committee and in future pieces of legislation,” Borgia continued.

Legislator Johnson who championed this bill, said of the veto:

“My disappointment cannot be put into words. The County Executive indicated the significant number of objections raised that cannot be brushed aside, and I counter with the tremendous advocacy in support of this ban that should not be discounted. Westchester County may have the lowest percentage of adult smokers in the State of New York, but this ban was meant for those disproportionately targeted by Big Tobacco.

The County Executive’s announcement of the Tobacco Education and Enforcement Initiatives with a $3 million investment is noble. However, it in no way compares to the billions lost due to tobacco-related health issues and loss of productivity in our state alone.

With the Supreme Court’s ruling yesterday to uphold the California ban on flavored tobacco, I feel the residents of California won while, with this veto, the residents of Westchester County suffered a setback.”

The proposed ban may still become a law. The BOL can vote again on the proposal and “override the veto” by a two-thirds vote in favor. The 11-6 vote suggests that they not have the required 12 votes needed to override Latimer’s veto, killing all chances of this ban from becoming law. Insiders tell us, its highly unlikely legislators who voted no, will go against the County Executive by changing their vote to give the BOL the votes to override the veto.

If the veto is overridden and the bill does pass, this law shall take effect six months after enactment.

Stay tuned to Black Westchester for more on this developing story. To see all our extensive coverage of the Westchester Menthol Ban, click here.