Westchester Board of Legislators hold public hearing ahead of vote to ban sale of flavored tobacco products
The Westchester Board of Legislators held a public hearing on Monday night ahead of an eventual vote on a bill banning the sale of flavored tobacco products in the county.
People on both sides of the issue rallied outside the county office building in White Plains hours before.
Supporters including members of the legislature, NAACP, doctors and student advocates said the ban will improve community health and protect kids and teens from becoming addicted to tobacco products.
More than 2.5 million middle and high school students reported using e-cigarettes in 2022, according to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month. Nearly 85% of them admitted to smoking flavored tobacco.
Opponents including business owners said the ban would hurt the nearly 450 convenience stores in Westchester by forcing customers to go into neighboring Bronx, Fairfield, and Putnam counties to buy flavored tobacco.
Members of the local Black community called the proposal racially biased because a majority of menthol cigarette smokers are people of color.
Around 85% of Black smokers used menthol cigarettes in 2019, according to the CDC - compared to 48% of Hispanic adults and 30% of white smokers.
Opponents also believe the ban will create a black market for flavored cigarettes, which could make communities of color more likely targets for police.
Only the county Health Department can enforce the law, according to the latest public version of the bill.
Any establishment that violates the law can be fined $300-$1,000 for the first violation and $500-$1,500 for each offense after that within two years.
The public hearing is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in the Legislative chambers. Lawmakers are not expected to vote on the bill Monday night.