Coalition of advocates making new push for City Council bill to ban sale of menthol cigarettes in NYC

City Council Member Rita Joseph and a broad coalition of advocates are making a new concerted push for a bill that might ban the sale of menthol cigarettes in the Large Apple, with a pair of new digital advertisements highlighting the tales of those that’ve misplaced kin to smoking-related ailments.

Joseph, a Democrat representing components of central Brooklyn, first launched the bill — Int. 0577 — final July and referred it to the council Committee on Well being, but it surely hasn’t moved additional alongside in the lawmaking course of since then. The laws would ban the sale of menthol, mint and wintergreen flavored cigarettes throughout the 5 boroughs, in a bid to decrease the quantity of kids who’re enticed to smoke by flavored cigarettes.

The council member stated she was drawn to this challenge as a result of it primarily impacts Black and brown communities, that are 11 occasions extra doubtless to use menthol cigarettes than white people who smoke. Moreover, 89% of Black and 63% of Latino grownup people who smoke use menthols in contrast to 32% of their white counterparts, in accordance to the bill’s advocates, and 70% of younger Black people who smoke favor menthols.

However, Joseph stated, the problem can also be private for her as a result of of people who smoke in her family and the way in which smoking was aggressively marketed to the Black neighborhood when she was rising up.

“I remember growing up, my dad was a smoker and we used to constantly tease him and said ‘he smoked like a dragon.’ It was the constant smoking, and leaving the smell,” Joseph stated. “I remember ads going up, I know now [it’s] illegal to post ads anywhere near schools, but I remember they were catered to us. I remember picking up ‘Essence’ [or] ‘Ebony Magazine’, ‘Jet Magazine,’ when I was younger, and they made smoking look cool.”

“But a lot of my brothers and sisters, and people that look like me, are dying at an alarming rate because of menthol cigarettes,” she added. “So that’s why it spoke to me. That’s why I felt like I wanted to be on this bill.”

The “Menthol Kills NYC” coalition is championing the laws and contains organizations just like the New York NAACP, Marketing campaign from Tobacco Free Children and the American Coronary heart Affiliation. The group is holding a rally in assist of the bill on the City Corridor steps forward of Thursday’s City Council Said Assembly.

In accordance to an evaluation performed by town Division of Well being (DOHMH), cited by coalition companions, if town have been to instantly ban menthols, roughly 90,000 New Yorkers would stop smoking over the subsequent two years; and round 3,000 younger folks wouldn’t begin smoking in the primary place. 

In an effort to drum up public assist for the bill and convey extra council sponsors on board, the group is releasing several digital ads that includes private tales from New York NAACP President Dr. Hazel Dukes and Meeting Member Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn (D-Brooklyn), together with two different New Yorkers, about dropping family and friends members to ailments linked with smoking.

“I’ve been fighting to protect Black New Yorkers for nearly 70 years,” Dukes stated in one of the advertisements. “And that’s why I’m fighting now to end the sale of menthol products in our city. Menthols make it easy to get addicted to tobacco, leading to higher rates of death for Black smokers.”

In one other advert, Bichotte Hermelyn — who additionally chairs the Brooklyn Democratic Social gathering — stated her father died from smoking cigarettes when she was 20 years previous.

“I don’t know if my dad knew that menthol-flavored tobacco would kill him,” Bichotte Hermelyn stated. “My father could have lived another 20 years. I wish he saw his grandkids, I wish he met his grandkids.”

Robin Vitale, vice chairman of well being methods on the American Coronary heart Affiliation, stated menthol cigarettes are significantly addictive as a result of menthol is supposed to cool an individual’s throat.

“When you add that to something as toxic and addictive as tobacco, it causes the user to inhale more deeply, inhale more often,” Vitale stated. “So, these products are extremely addictive, they’re easier to use. And as a result, much harder to quit.”

The bill is supposed to plug a gap in a 2013 regulation handed by the council that banned the sale of flavored cigarettes in town that didn’t finally bar the sale of menthols, in accordance to Menthol Kills NYC coalition lead Candace Prince-Modeste. The council then moved to ban flavored vape pods and e-cigarettes in 2019, laws that included menthol flavored vape pods and e-cigarettes, however nonetheless ignored normal menthol cigarettes.

“In the efforts, and I guess the negotiations, unfortunately, surrounding that first bill, somehow or another menthol cigarettes were not included in that bill,” Prince-Modeste stated. “So, the flavored tobacco bill passed, but it did not include menthol cigarettes. And so here we are today, 2022 going into 2023, trying to close that gap and ban the sale of menthol cigarettes in New York City.”

The laws at the moment has 16 council member co-sponsors, together with Majority Chief Keith Powers (D-Manhattan), and Manhattan borough president Mark Levine. Council Speaker Adrienne Adams’ workplace didn’t point out which method it was leaning on the bill when contacted by amNewYork Metro and Mayor Eric Adams’ workplace didn’t reply to a request for remark by publish time.

The bill has gotten pushback from massive tobacco corporations like Altria and a few native trades teams. 

Youssef Moubarez, a spokesperson for the Yemeni American Retailers Affiliation — a gaggle that represents hundreds of Yemeni bodega and deli proprietors in town, stated that whereas his group is in opposition to smoking, it doesn’t consider there ought to be a ban on menthols. He argued banning the authorized sale of menthols would inevitably lead to the rise of a bootleg market for the mint-flavored cigarettes, which might in flip lead to the next police presence in Black and brown communities.

“It’s already been proven that once you ban something like menthol cigarettes or tobacco, it immediately creates an illicit market, where people are now getting it cheaper, and obviously buying more frequently, because they’re saving money on it,” Moubarez stated. “Then you just create more problems in the communities where you were trying to save in the first place. You create more police activity.”

However Joseph made it clear that, if the bill have been to go, town Division of Client and Employee Safety can be charged with enforcement, relatively than the NYPD. She stated she made certain the NYPD wouldn’t be charged with enforcement after many advocates contacted her workplace with issues that it could criminalize communities of shade.

“The pushback that I got was that folks thought this was a way for police to criminalize people and this bill doesn’t do that,” Joseph stated. “It has to do with consumer protection.”

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