Westchester County legislators vote to ban flavored cigarettes
Westchester lawmakers voted Monday night to ban the sales of flavored tobacco in the county.
The Board of Legislators made the decision after months of debate about the racial component and the ban's potential effects on local business.
The lawmakers say this is a victory for young people and the Black community. More than 80% of Black smokers smoke menthol cigarettes, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Activist Taharka Robinson says it's about time the local government did away with flavored tobacco sales, especially menthol cigarettes.
"I commend the Westchester County Legislature for even taking this on,” he says. "These cigarettes have been marketed to our communities. It's time for us to really get serious about placing a ban on menthol tobacco because it's killing people in our communities."
Under this ban, the Health Department would issue citations to stores who sell flavored tobacco products.
Some opponents still fear potential encounters with police over the ban.
Gwendolyn Carr is the mother of Eric Garner, who was killed during a struggle with police in 2014 for illegally selling single cigarettes.
Carr says she fears the ban could invite illegal street sales of menthols, which could lead to police involvement.
"I'm against it because of all the unintentional harm it could cause,” Carr says. "When [the Health Department] go to interact, they're not going in there alone. They're going to take someone with them. Who else but the police would they take with them? That's my fear."
One legislator who supports the ban admits there might be other situations created by this ban, which the board is going to work through as they come up.
Other opponents of the ban say it will hurt hundreds of businesses in Westchester that sell tobacco products and customers would just go to Putnam, Fairfield and the Bronx to buy flavored tobacco.
The ban will go into effect in six months.
Legislators say business owners could use the time to refresh their business models to account for their inability to sell these products.