COLUMBUS, Ohio — Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said Wednesday that the city has an “obligation to act” to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products in the city.
“We know for a fact tobacco companies have been deliberately targeting the sale of their deadly products to children and Black Americans for decades,” Mayor Ginther said.
The mayor said there has been a calculated campaign with selective marketing and predatory pricing that has been aimed at communities of color and young people.
That’s why the Columbus City Council is debating legislation that would ban the sale of flavored tobacco products in the city. Several public hearings already have been held. On Tuesday night, the Columbus City Schools Board of Education voted on a resolution to support the ban. And, on Wednesday, city and health leaders gathered to show their own support.
“The strategy is simple – hook them while they’re young and get a customer for life,” he said. “Well, that simply cannot stand in our community.”
Columbus Public Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts shared several stats related to the impact of flavored tobacco, including menthol cigarettes on the Black community.
She said, one in three Black Columbus residents is a smoker. And she shared national data from 2019 showing that 85 percent of Black smokers use menthol cigarettes.
“Flavors are used to hook kids as well as minority communities on nicotine, and nicotine is very, very addictive,” she said.
Dr. Roberts also said that this proposed ban falls in line with the city’s efforts to make changes in the wake of recent city declaration that racism is a public health crisis.
Not everyone is convinced the ban would be a good idea, however. At the first public meeting on the proposed ban back in October, the crowd was so large, many of them in opposition, that not everyone could fit inside.
Business owners and others shared their concerns about the negative economic impact a ban would bring.
But Mayor Ginther was undeterred when 10TV questioned him about that on Wednesday.
“We think this is something where we can work together,” he said. “And we can figure out ways to support these businesses moving forward when they’re not targeting African Americans and young people in our community.”
It wasn’t just adults lending their voices to the cause. Frankie Madosky was there as well. She’s a high school senior at Hamilton Township High School.
“The past four years of my high school career, with just nicotine-based issues and things, have been pretty detrimental to my education actually,” she said.
The teen recalled being able to move freely around the school when she was a freshman. She said, these days, students need permission to leave the lunchroom to use the restroom and that phones are banned.
She said vaping is the reason for all of those changes.
“I think it’s just encouraged,” she said. “It’s on social media, everybody on our TikToks, everybody on our Instagram, they’re all encouraging that vaping is like this cool behavior when actually it really isn’t, and there are severe health risks.”