Legislator Tyrae Woodson-Samuels – District 13 (Mount Vernon) one of the legislators who voted against the proposed menthol cigarettes and flavor nicotine ban, shared with Black Westchester his response to County Executive George Latimer’s veto of Local Law Intro. No 461-2022.
I applaud and support County Executive Latimer’s decision to veto legislation that would have banned the sale of flavored tobacco products in the county, and I support his more measured and broad-based commitment to protecting Westchester’s youth from the dangers of smoking in general. I know this was not a simple decision, and that the County Executive did not take the easier political path – but I absolutely applaud him for listening so attentively to the concerns, in particular, of the African American and Middle Eastern communities in the context of this legislation.
Let me be clear: this is no knock on my colleagues on the Board of Legislators who voted to pass this legislation. They are sincere public servants, and we share the same goals: decreasing the use of dangerous products and increasing education around the health risks of smoking. But I agreed with County Executive Latimer, himself a veteran lawmaker of several decades, that the bill as passed too narrowly singled out a few products at the expense of others, while ignoring both the cultural and economic impacts on our communities. In our discussions, I urged the County Executive to consider these factors, and to take a broader approach that didn’t single out our specific communities.
CE Latimer more than answered the call. Rather than just veto the bill and call it a day, the County Executive launched a new initiative that includes a $3 million public education campaign to all residents, highlighting the dangers of tobacco usage, as well as a multi-level enforcement program, working with state and local government resources to ensure improved enforcement of our existing Tobacco 21 age limit under the leadership of Deputy County Executive Jenkins.
To me, this is the right kind of leadership on this issue. We all want fewer lives lost to tobacco-related illness. We want our kids to be safe. But our local laws must be broad and comprehensive and consider the full economic and cultural impact of each regulation. So, I’d like to thank the County Executive for listening so closely to our concerns and choosing the tougher political path. It was the right call.
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 CE Latimer’s veto is overturned 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.