A ban on the sales of flavored tobacco ban in Westchester County has been vetoed by County Executive George Latimer, sending it back to the county’s Board of Legislators for a possible override.
The bill was passed in late November by an 11-6 vote and called for a ban on the sale, distribution and marketing of all flavored tobacco products, including those with menthol, mint and wintergreen. It did not prohibit the use of such products within county lines, however.
When passed, Latimer did not indicate whether he would sign or veto the bill, with a spokesperson saying that he would simply review it when it arrived on his desk. Earlier this week, Latimer informed the Board of Legislators that he would be vetoing the bill, and while he called it “a sincere effort to expand our effort to reduce tobacco use by limiting sales access to those products,” he said that the impact of the unintended consequence of the bill, namely opposition from several groups, resulted him his decision to issue the veto.
Latimer cited opposition that he received from African-American groups, Middle Eastern and Arab-American leaders, and representatives of Union organizations, “all who assert that their communities would ne negatively impacted by banning these products.” He added that a more thorough review of the objections and discussions of remedies is warranted.
After the veto was issued, Latimer announced that he has launched the Westchester Tobacco Free Program, which was described as a two-prong approach to lowering the smoking rate in the county. It will include a $3 million public education campaign to highlight the dangers of tobacco usage and offering efforts to help smokers quit smoking. There will also be an increased effort to improve enforcement of the county’s existing minimum purchasing age of 21-years-old.
Had Latimer signed the bill, it would have gone into effect in six months. Now that start date will depend on whether or not the Board of Legislators can find enough votes to override the veto. To do so, it would require two-thirds of the 17-member board to approve it, meaning that one legislator would have to change their vote.
Westchester County is located just north of New York City, and has a population of just under one million people.