ALBANY, N.Y. (WROC) — The New York State Legislature rejected Governor Kathy Hochul’s proposal to ban the sale of all flavored tobacco products, which would have included menthol.
The proposal was first announced in February as part of the Governor’s 2023-2024 fiscal year budget.
It would have made New York the 3rd state in the country to make such a move, but some industries, such as convience stores and bodegas, argue a ban wouldn’t actually get people to stop smoking.
“Let’s try to use that [tax] system to lower the smoking rate as opposed to doing things like increasing taxes or banning categories of prouduct which will only send people to other, unregulated spaces leading to lower sales recipts, lower program fundng and a market full of unregulated, untaxed product,” says Kent Sopris, President of NY Association of Convenience Stores.
The legislature did decide to keep the dollar increase in the excise tax on cigarettes, from $4.35 now to $5.35. It also increases the existing use tax rate on cigarettes by the same amount.
Advocates on the other side, like Tobacco Free New York, say the science-based evidence of Big Tobacco’s systemic targeting of people in the Black and Brown community will prevail.
“The counter to that arguement is simply that it is not true. We have demonstrated areas that have done the exact same thing that we’re trying to do who have taken the stance to say Black life means more than a profit in our pockets today,” says Shanequa Charles, Executive Director of Miss Abbie’s Kids and Coalition Partners with Tobacco Free NY.
“Our data shows that the combination of nicotine and menthol is way more damaging in melonated cells than non-melonated cells. There’s a reason why out of 100 Black smokers, 89% are addicted to menthol cigarettes,” Charles adds.
The Governor’s budget is due by April 1st.
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