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Detroit coalition urges state lawmakers to ban flavored tobacco and hold retailers accountable

Proposed bill would ban sale of all flavored tobacco products in Michigan
Proposed bill would ban sale of all flavored tobacco products in Michigan 02:35

(CBS DETROIT) – A Metro Detroit group is demanding state lawmakers pass a package of bills that would overhaul tobacco use in Michigan, including banning the sale of all flavored tobacco products.

The Detroit Wayne-Oakland Tobacco-Free Coalition, comprised of elected officials, DPSCD board members, community activists, and health professionals, explained the proposed legislation during a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

"How many more black lives do we have to lose for this to become a priority? It's a public health threat. It's killing us in disproportionate numbers," said Minou Jones, founder and CEO of Making it Count Community Development Corp.

Andres Gutierrez/CBS Detroit

The coalition is championing a series of bills making their way through Lansing that hold the right people accountable to reduce tobacco use.

"I see the effects because I look down into the lungs of smokers when I intubate them, put a tube down their throat — it smells like death," said Dr. Sheila Williamson, an anesthesiologist.

One of the proposed bills would get rid of penalties for kids who buy, use, or possess tobacco and instead go after retailers.

"The penalties are not strong enough; you talking about a $50 fine. Give me a break. Give me a break. Who are these tobacco companies paying," said Darryl Woods, a Detroit police commissioner. 

The group has already shut down five shops in Detroit that had allegedly been selling to kids.

"We will continue to shut you down until you get the point — you're not allowed to sell poison to Black children in the city of Detroit. We have blessed you with the privilege to provide services and goods to our people. So once you have that privilege, you have the responsibility to protect our people," said Teferi Brent, a community activist.

They're also demanding that the state repeal a law preventing local governments from establishing their own tobacco rules.

"Let the cities, let the counties determine how we will regulate tobacco, how we will protect our youth, and how we will ensure our next generation is not poisoned and addicted to one of the most addictive substances on the planet, nicotine," Detroit Councilman Scott Benson said. 

The proposed legislation would also make sure all tobacco products are taxed equally, including nicotine vaping products, which haven't been taxed in Michigan.

"If you are a manufacturer or distributor doing the right thing, then we're not talking to you, but if you're not, we're coming for you. We're coming for you because where you live, it would not be acceptable in your communities, it would not be acceptable, and so we don't stand up for our young people who will?" said Angelique Peterson-Mayberry, president of the DPSCD school board.

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