California legislators continue to move legislation to deny African-American’s the right to smoke their preferred method of cigarettes. Lawmakers are looking to amend the Stop Tobacco Access to Kids Enforcement (STAKE) Act to prohibit sales of flavored tobacco and menthol throughout the state. Based on the text of Senate Bill 793 the sole purpose is to create a new crime which would eventually lead to the criminalization and incarceration of African-Americans.
“The road to hell is paid in good intentions,” said Jody Armour, the highly respected Roy P. Crocker Professor of Law at the University of Southern California. “We can’t criminalize our way out of social problems.”
On Tuesday, August 4, 2020, the Assembly Health Committee voted 10-2 to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products which moves the bill to the Appropriations Committee for further consideration.
The bill has caught the ire of the African-American community, yet, were not overwhelmingly represented during the August 4th discussion.
Of the more than 500 callers speaking in favor of the ban, less than 20% were African-American’s.
It is widely known throughout the state of California and around the nation that the global pandemic of COVID-19 have left many minorities, especially African-American’s out of work and insecure about housing. Many turn to tobacco products for comfort.
SB 793 comes across as a bill specifically targeting a specific group of people which translates to discrimination.
“Don’t deny one group the right to smoke while allowing another group their right to choose,” said Pastor William Smart President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. “Hookah is being carved out of SB 793 which against gives preferential treatment to one race over another which is why SCLC is in this fight.”
The group not being affected by SB 793 are Middle Eastern who use hookah for recreational purposes which rely on the use of water pipes to smoke flavored tobacco and marijuana.
With California voters overwhelmingly supporting the decriminalization of marijuana legislators have devised a new pipeline to prison for African-American’s disguised as looking out for the “health” of African-American’s when in reality the biggest health crisis facing African-American’s is racism.
“The health disparities that we’re seeing by race is a result of our long history of systemic racism in this country,” Los Angeles Councilman Herb Wesson said in a statement. “The question now becomes what we are going to do to change these systems for future generations.”
Studies have long concluded that being Black in America is bad for your health. But dozens of cities and counties across the U.S. — and at least three states, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin — have officially declared it a public health emergency this month after racial justice protesters took to streets across the nation.
This sentiment was also echoed by Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak.
“Institutional and systemic racism has gone on far too long in this country and this state. Based on research, we are taking a proactive approach in joining fellow leaders around the country to declare racism as a public health crisis,” Gov. Sisolak said. “I am grateful to be joined by the Nevada Legislature in recognizing that racism manifests in measurable ways, including in public health. I look forward to working with Nevada leaders and the Office of Minority Health and Equity on this critical issue.”
Frankly, African-American’s are beyond tired of White legislators feeling they know what’s best for us. White people have led us into slavery, poverty and being brutalized by the police.
African-American’s have the same right to decide if they want to smoke as White people do and if this law is about addressing the “health” of California’s residents, in totality, the ban would be on ALL tobacco products and not those specifically designed to criminalize African-American’s.