OP-ED: National Latino Officers Association & Law Enforcement Activists Express Warning to New York Legislators
NNPA NEWSWIRE — NLOA acknowledges the negative health impacts of tobacco use. However, numerous reports find that overall, smoking rates in the U.S. are the lowest they have ever been in public health history. In addition, people of color who are menthol smokers have the same overall cessation rates as their non-menthol-smoking white counterparts.
“A Menthol Ban is Discriminatory. It Will Turn a Health Issue into a Criminal Justice Issue.”
NEW YORK — Since 1996 the National Latino Officers Association (NLOA) has been at the forefront of advocating against issues that adversely affect our Latino and Black communities. Today, we respectfully request that New York’s governor and New York City councilmembers see the warning signs of a racially discriminatory policy: the menthol cigarette prohibition. Let it be clear that WE DO NOT ENCOURAGE, SUPPORT, OR PROMOTE CIGARETTE SMOKING. As law enforcement experts, we hope that legislators consider our perspective and understand that we don’t make the laws, but we do have a hand in enforcing them.
“The National Association of Latino Officers firmly believes the best way to address tobacco use in our community is through a medical, not a criminal, approach,” said Sylvia T. Miranda, MBA, NLOA Executive Director. “Additionally, rather than increase the cigarette tax by one dollar, we urge the governor and legislators to consider allocating resources to crack down on illicit cigarettes. This will allow the state to recoup the billions in tax revenue lost to street cigarette dealers and illicit sales in stores. The loss of revenue on illegal and illicit sales of cigarettes is already astronomical. Banning cigarettes doesn’t prevent access it simply increases illegal access and greater loss of revenue. These revenues can help fund the education, treatment, and counseling services needed to address tobacco addiction. We urge lawmakers to consider the unintended effects of this ban and the criminal consequences it will have on Latino and Black communities.”
The Coalition includes:
- National Latino Officers Association (NLOA)
- The Grand Council of Guardians (GCG)
- Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP)
- Nassau County Sheriff Guardians
- Nassau County Police Guardians
- Yonkers Guardians
- Westchester-Rockland Guardians
- Guardians Association of New York State Troopers
- Individual justice practitioners affiliated with:
- National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE)
- National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice (NABCJ)
- National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers (NABLEO)
- National Association of Criminal Justice Practitioners (NCJP)
The ACLU wrote this in a 2021 letter to the FDA: “Well-intentioned efforts to continue to reduce death and disease from tobacco products must avoid solutions that will create yet another reason for armed police to engage citizens on the street based on pretext or conduct that does not pose a threat to public safety. Of adults, approximately 80 percent of Blacks and 35 percent of Latinx who choose to smoke prefer menthol cigarettes. Banning menthol cigarettes risks massive setbacks to our criminal justice system at precisely the moment we should be advancing reform. If menthol cigarettes are banned, their sale and distribution would be a crime punishable as a felony under federal criminal statutes.”
Do Not Criminalize a Public Health Issue
NLOA acknowledges the negative health impacts of tobacco use. However, numerous reports find that overall, smoking rates in the U.S. are the lowest they have ever been in public health history. In addition, people of color who are menthol smokers have the same overall cessation rates as their non-menthol-smoking white counterparts.
Adopting a public health solution, such as expanding anti-smoking education and prevention and cessation programs, would keep communities safer and healthier far more effectively than a prohibitive policy.
As New York considers a menthol ban, NLOA asks:
- Exhaust all non-prohibition alternatives before removing menthol cigarettes from legal and regulatory channels.
- Evaluate how a ban would adversely impact communities of color, trigger criminal penalties, and increase negative interactions with law enforcement.
- Meet with legislators to provide evidence-based criminal justice resources for pretextual stops and racial profiling.
“Public health and public safety solutions can exist side-by-side. We ask policymakers to choose another path. A menthol cigarette prohibition is not the right answer for New Yorkers, especially in communities of color,” Ret. Commissioner Jiles Ship, former NOBLE Past National President and NCJP coalition member.
About The National Latino Officers Association (NLOA)
The National Latino Officers Association (NLOA) is an acknowledged fraternal and advocacy organization. The mission of the NLOA is to create a coordinated network of support without limitations or boundaries. NLOA strives to create affiliations in the wide array of law enforcement agencies and companies that will provide representation and services equivalent to those offered by NLOA. NLOA represents both uniform and civilian members who are employed by law enforcement agencies on the city, state, and federal levels and represents non-law enforcement personnel employed in the private and public sectors. There are no ethnic requirements for membership to NLOA. However, members must embrace the organization’s vision and be supportive of its goals. https://nloaus.org/