LETTER TO WESTCHESTER COUNTY, NY COUNTY EXECUTIVE

This article written by: Damon Jones

This article first published at: Blacks in Law Enforcement America

A document file regarding this issue is available by CLICKING HERE

George Latimer
County Executive
Westchester County
148 Martine Avenue, White Plains, NY 10601

Dear George Latimer,

I am writing you this letter of our concern about the recent proposed Menthol Ban Legislation discussed
by the Westchester Legislators Health Committee.

Smoking in the U.S. has dropped to an all-time low. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
reported that only 1 in 8 adults were current smokers. Youth smoking is also reported at an all-time low of
3.3 percent.

We recognize the legislator's well-intentioned efforts to reduce tobacco product deaths and diseases.
However, this county law will affect Black communities more than White communities. Depending on
the data used, it is estimated that 74% to 95% of Black Americans smoke menthol cigarettes and only
22% to 36% of White American smoke menthol cigarettes.

To pass legislation that will have a severe racial disparate impact on Black people while White people in
Westchester can smoke freely with impunity is a sign of governmental microaggression, which is
unacceptable, even with the intention to save Black people's lives.

If passed, the legislation that will have a severe racial disparate impact on Black people while White
people in Westchester can smoke freely with impunity is contradictory to your government's message of
equity and diversity.

Are you aware that New York State has the highest rate of inbound cigarette smuggling activity in the
U.S., with an estimated 60 percent of cigarettes consumed in the state deriving from smuggling?
Are you also aware that 80 percent of the cigarettes sold in New York City are sold illegally, either over
the counter or in the backrooms of bodegas?

While our politicians legalized marijuana on the one hand and plan criminalized only menthol cigarettes,
which are primarily used by Black people, on the other, we are only substituting one illegal substance for
the other. We will feed the demand for more illegal sales that will directly affect Westchester's Black
communities and create more interactions with Black residents with police.

It is irresponsible for the legislators not to have testimony from the Westchester County Chiefs
Association, the Westchester District Attorney's Office, or Alcohol Tabaco and Firearms (ATF) of access
to the unintended consequences that this bill creates concerning public safety.

I fully understand the need to address the dangers of smoking that are also written on every box of
cigarettes. However, to pass legislation that will have a severe racial disparate impact on Black people
while White people in Westchester can smoke freely with impunity is a sign of governmental
microaggression, which is something I cannot accept.

This legislation will also create setbacks in police reform to which Westchester County and its 43
municipalities have been at turtle speed slow to advance any meaningful police reform policies or
Civilian Complaint Review Boards.

The county will also lose approximately 1.6 million dollars in tax revenue. If Westchester County is
serious about the health of Black people in Westchester. In this case, tax revenue should be allocated for
health education programs, preventive smoking patches, and gums, ensuring Black and Brown
communities have fresh fruits, vegetables, and clean water to drink. Let's ensure our children's
playgrounds are safe places to play and exercise.

Let's remember that Mount Vernon, a city of 90 thousand people, does not have a full-functioning
hospital. These are the issues in the Black communities of Westchester that need direct attention now! 1.6
million can help in these causes.

A road to health and wellness starts with education, changing people's mindset on food and exercise
habits, and recognizing that cigarette smoking is an addiction and that we should treat it as such. Not by
passing legislation that will criminalize only one group and not the entirety. We have been down this road
before; have we not learned anything from our past mistakes?

Thank you for your time in this matter.

Damon K. Jones
Blacks in Law Enforcement of America
914-525-5288

cc: Westchester County Legislators
Westchester County District Attorney’s Office
Westchester County Chiefs Association
Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms
State Assemblyman Nadar Sayegh
National Black Police Association
Blacks in Law Enforcement of America DC Office
National Black Police Association
National Association of Black Law Enforcement Executives
Westchester Coalition for Police Reform







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