Leading Health Organizations React to Disproportionate Police Action to Address Illegal Tobacco Use in Ocean City, MD

Statement from American Lung Association, the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, the Center for Black Health and Equity, and the Public Health Law Center

“This week cell phone footage has shown the pain that police brutality has again inflicted on Black and Brown people in the name of enforcing tobacco control. These incidents tragically underscore a cultural pandemic of structural, institutional, and systemic racism that has been at the core of our country for over 400 years.

“Excessive force and systemic racism exist independently of public health measures and must be addressed. Law enforcement should not harass, or arrest structurally marginalized communities, especially youth and young adults of color, because they have a tobacco product in their possession. In fact, it’s the exact opposite of what is needed.

“To protect and save lives, especially Black and Brown lives, we must continue to address where and how public health law contributes to systemic racism and discrimination. This includes not only continuing to implement evidence-based tobacco control policies but also addressing inequities in the enforcement of commercial tobacco control laws and policies.

“For decades, the tobacco industry has aggressively targeted the Black community with menthol cigarettes which has led to worse health outcomes for this community, such as cancer, lung disease, and heart disease. Now, with the rise of e-cigarettes and flavored cigars, we’re seeing history repeat itself with Big Tobacco relentlessly targeting our youth.

“These incidents in Ocean City, Maryland underscore that our work on tobacco control remains unfinished. We are committed to working at the federal, state, and local levels with departments, decisionmakers, advocates, and other stakeholders to address tobacco addiction and reduce tobacco-related harms while championing the need to improve the efficacy of enforcement of commercial tobacco laws and policies.”

For more information, contact:

Elizabeth Cook
[email protected]

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