City of Los Angeles elected’s are pondering an enhanced ordinance to regulate certain tobacco products – specifically flavored and menthol tobacco products. Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB 793 into law in August 2020 which placed a statewide ban on these products, however, over 1 million residents signed a petition to place the measure on a 2022 referendum ballot. The problem is the council is attempting to take away resident’s right to vote by passing their own version of a law to take away the voting rights of thousands of African-American voters who make the choice to smoke.
Voter suppression has become a hot button topic with the recent outrage over new voting restrictions implemented in the state of Georgia.
Voting rights are of the highest importance to African-American voters and is how one councilman made a name for himself, dedicating a decade to ensuring residents understood their right to vote.
As someone who founded a successful organization, increasing voter turnout, it is unclear why he would attempt to stop residents from voting, taking into consideration he thought voters were being taken advantage of when he ran a hotly contested campaign against Grace Yoo and claims of ballot harvesting was taking place allegedly by a woman collecting ballots at a local nursing home.
“Voter integrity is at stake, and consequences for this kind of alleged fraud must be swift and certain. It is particularly deplorable that anyone would take advantage of a vulnerable population in order to swing the outcome of an election,” said Ridley-Thomas. Is he taking away voter’s rights to swing the outcome of the proposed statewide ban once it lands on next year’s ballot?
“Just as we have the right to vote and a right to breathe – every man, woman, and child needs a place to call home,” said Ridley-Thomas.
Ridley-Thomas led the charge to pass Proposition 17 which restored the voting rights of the formerly incarcerated, where many of which were smokers.
When California banned smoking cigarettes in prison, it created a black market for chewing tobacco with tins normally costing $11 increased to nearly $200 on the cellblock.
“It’s real, real expensive, and that’s about as far as I can go with that,” said Thomas Hernandez, a prison inmate.
Some are concerned that the ban could cause another problem — an increase in violence. When smoking was banned in Maine prisons, it led to a 400 percent increase in assaults. That spurred Vermont and New York to ease up on their anti-tobacco policies. Will women become vulnerable to being robbed so a homeless person can have money to purchase a cigarette on the Black market?
Ridley-Thomas appears dead set on reversing the many ordinances enacted and supported by former LA Council President Herb Wesson Jr., which were thoughtfully done with Black business owners in mind.
The Black vote is necessary to win any elected seat in the city of Los Angeles and another potential mayoral candidate is going against the will of Black constituents in an effort to ensure he has the support of the police department, who continues to be at odds with their manhandling of minority residents, peacefully protesting documented instances of abuse at the hands of some law enforcement officers.
Councilman Joe Buscaino voted against defunding the police department last summer and is campaigning by giving contradictory statements that should be of concern to Black voters.
When asked about his position on defunding LAPD he likened it to “sloganeering” and called the LAPD the “largest reformed police department in the country” but supported the defunding of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department with the passage of Measure J.
Black residents have smoked since the Great Migration and the traumatic experiences they encountered after moving here increased their dependency on the products.
Hollywood continues to bring social justice issues to the forefront, by incorporating smoking back onto the small screen showing ALL ethnicities enjoy smoking for either recreation or relaxation to ease the pain of dealing with society’s ills. Why isn’t the council banning ALL cigarettes if this is TRULY about one’s health? Why are the discriminating against Blacks by targeting products WE enjoy?
Homelessness is on the rise, hate crimes are on the rise, unemployment is on the rise and our elected officials have not addressed ANY of these issues adequately, despite their so-called decades of experience they claim to have. Instead they continue to face a federal judge to force them to address issues they honestly can’t solve. The homeless turn to other vices to cope with living on the streets which is not safe.
Having to encounter the police for simply sleeping anywhere they can be already problematic, add possessing a single menthol cigarette could be deadly if they are banned. Ask Eric Gardner.
Compton Mayor Aja Brown said her city couldn’t move forward due to “senior citizens” being the problem, and some of those senior citizens are elected officials unwilling to adapt to the change going on around them.
It is now legal to smoke marijuana for both medicinal and recreational purposes and one of these potential candidates refused to legalize marijuana while serving on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. How out of touch is he with the community?
We need leaders willing to address the most pressing issues facing Angelenos, and it’s not smoking a Newport.