The Hookah Hypocrisy… STOP SB793

Right now, the California State Assembly is considering a ban on flavored tobacco products to keep kids from smoking. We can all agree that banning flavors like “cotton candy” and “bubble gum” make a lot of sense. Sweet, fruity flavors are intended to do one thing and one thing only—hook kids on tobacco. But, that’s not true with all flavors. Take menthol, for example. Kids aren’t being seduced into smoking or vaping because of the flavor menthol. They don’t even know what that word means. But, 88% of Black adults who smoke, prefer menthol flavored tobacco products. So banning that flavor doesn’t stop kids from smoking, it could turn Black smokers, law-abiding adult Californians into criminals. It’s clear that a menthol ban would unfairly target California’s Black community and should be exempted from any proposed ban.

Tell speaker Anthony Rendon to STOP SB793:

Banning menthol is especially outrageous when you consider that the State of California recently exempted hookah bars and retailers from their flavor ban to avoid upsetting the Armenian community. Originally, the state bill aimed to curtail teen tobacco use by banning all flavored products, including hookah. However, after widespread outrage in the Armenian community and considerable pushback from a coalition of local businesses called the ‘Hookah Chamber’, the legislature granted an exemption. They successfully argued that banning hookah flavor would unfairly target a specific ethnic group, undercut a longstanding tradition and criminalize respectable, law-abiding businesses.

This exact argument can be applied to adult Black menthol smokers. Why is one racial group receiving preferential treatment over another? Why aren’t Black people receiving the same privileges as Armenians? While we all support measures to reduce vaping and smoking among young people, studies prove that menthol is not one of the flavors that “hook” kids. Moreover, anyone under the age of 21 is already banned from purchasing any tobacco products. Prohibiting menthol is a racially discriminatory public policy and will lead to racial profiling amongst other things.

We stand with members of the civil rights, faith, social justice, and law enforcement community in saying that menthol should be removed from S.B. 793 and a diverse working group must be created to answer all questions posed regarding impact.

We need to focus our attention on EDUCATION AND PREVENTION, NOT A HOOKAH EXEMPTION. 

Tell speaker Anthony Rendon to STOP SB793:

Focus on What Matters: Homelessness in California is on the rise

It is time to focus on the bigger issues that are currently at hand in California. During this global pandemic and one of the biggest protest movements against racial injustice, elected officials need to do their part to address issues that are directly impacting their constituents currently: homelessness.

In California, 72 percent of people experiencing homelessness are unsheltered, which is the highest share of unsheltered homelessness of any state. How did it get to this point? Homelessness in California has increased more than 22 percent over the last decade and is looking to increase by over 16 percent. These are predictions made before the global pandemic took place. Now due to employment challenges and people not being able to pay rent, Californians may be looking at eviction, which could increase the population of homeless California residents. While eviction has been halted ordered by the governor, what will happen when that expires? We need to make sure that Californians will be able to live and address these issues now before they become a bigger problem that is not easily controlled.

Homelessness also affects populations of color disproportionally to their white counterparts. Black people are experiencing overrepresentation in the criminal justice system, housing segregation, and employment discrimination, which has led to their disproportionate representation in the homeless population.

However, our elected officials are too busy focusing on S.B. 793 which bans flavored tobacco, or A.B. 2074’s mandate over the definition of California olive oil. The main priority should be providing aid to Californians who are currently homeless and those that may become homeless as evictions will be on the rise once the state lifts the moratorium.

It’s time to focus on how we can get our neighborhoods, city, and state moving forward, and on becoming productive on issues that directly affect Californians and hold our elected officials accountable.

Join the movement. Be the change.

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