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Clarke Statement on Vote Against the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act and its Included Menthol Ban

Washington, DC- Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09) issued the following statement in response to today’s vote on The Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act (H.R. 2339):

“As I cast my vote against H.R. 2339, the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act” today, one thing remains true: sometimes the right decision is not always the popular one. I cannot deny the good intentions behind this bill to reduce youth tobacco use, however the unintended consequences from its menthol ban that could result in increased stop and frisk occurrences of Black tobacco users meant I could not support this legislation as it was written.” 

“While there are clear health benefits to H.R. 2339, I have real concerns around this bill passing that would negatively impact the Black community and communities of color at a higher rate. A ban that makes an exception for one flavor—premium cigars, which is the preferred flavor of elite white tobacco users—while banning the preferred “flavor” of Black tobacco users, menthol, is unjust.” 

“I have received letters from the ACLU, as well as the mothers of Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner who voiced their deep concerns that this ban would increase stop-and-frisk measures in our community. As a New Yorker, I have witnessed the horrors of stop-and-frisk and increased policing and racial profiling in our community firsthand, so I could not in good faith vote for a bill that would put our community at risk.”

“If the legislation would make a categorical ban on all tobacco products and flavors, then I will throw my full support behind the effort. I do not take this position lightly, but as an elected official I must make the hard decisions—not the easy ones, so I can be a voice for those who otherwise might not be heard in Congress.”