NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Protestors held competing rallies outside in Lower Manhattan Thursday over a proposed ban on menthol cigarettes The issue is dividing members of the Black community.
One group is arguing against the menthol ban, led by family members of Eric Garner and George Floyd, The flavor is popular in the Black community and they fear a ban will lead to police misusing their power to target members of their community.
"We don't need more interaction by police enforcement, we had enough," Gwen Carr, Garner's mother, said at the demonstration outside City Hall. "Why aren't we addressing all the cigarettes? It's discriminatory."
The other group, led by officials from the NAACP says big tobacco uses menthol-flavored products to lure the public into consuming the cancer-causing product.
And they push back against the idea that it will lead to more police violence in their communities.
"The big lie is that he police are going to come into our communities if we ban menthol cigarettes," NAACP New York State Conference President Hazel Dukes said at a rally just around the corner from City Hall, in front of One Police Plaza.
A proposed ban on the sale of menthol cigarettes and a tax increase on other tobacco products are part of Gov. Kathy Hochul's fiscal 2024 budget.
Proponents argue that the bill's language explicitly states it will "prohibit police officers or other law enforcement officers from arresting any person on the grounds in relation to any flavored tobacco product."
Data from the United States Department of Health and Human Services shows that 85% of non-Hispanic Black smokers use menthol.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the smoking rate among non-Hispanic Black adults is 14.4%.