A couple of weeks ago, video clips involving Black teens who were smoking cigarettes at the Maryland Beach City Boardwalk went to the top of the charts.
To give you a sense of context, smoking and vaping smoking cigarettes are not permitted on the Boardwalk, with the exception of designated areas. Smoking or vaping in non-designated places is punishable by a 500 dollar fine. This is an expensive fine and not more than a small fine. One of the quotes of David Recor, City Manager at the time that the ordinance was passed, was, “Will the city send people in jail for smoking cigarettes on the Boardwalk? We don’t have that method.” The issue was a non-priority that a teenager observed that there were no notices stating that vaping or smoking tobacco were not allowed.
People were obviously disappointed when they saw footage of the Boardwalk’s officers taking away the teens who were vaping with a lot of force. Vapers included Black teenagers who were assaulted by police, pushed to the stomach, kneed, and tethered prior to being removed and taken into custody.
The public seemed to believe that the force used by the police was also excessive. Public safety officers needed to construct an enclosure to “separate the aggressive and hostile crowd” from police officers who were making arrests.” In response to the videos, the police department said, “Our officers are allowed to employ force, according to their training, in order to deter any resistance” and that their officers’ use of force will be subject to a “detailed review procedure.”
Although there’s only one teenager on the screen in the above link, Five boys were in the video, and of them, four were detained. Smoking marijuana wasn’t an offense that they could have been arrested for. The reason for their detention was a combination of other charges, including intoxication, resisting arrest and interfering with arrest, failing to produce evidence of identity, and second-degree assault and obstruction and hindering.
It seems that the teenagers were released after paying fines following having spent the night in jail. However, there’s plenty more to handle. The enjoyable trip to the beach for graduation was ended by being assaulted and arrested, as well as the problems that accompany the incident. A teen mentions in a post-interview after an incident that this was not his first trip to a beach.
The significance of this situation is its significance to a specific dispute that is ongoing between anti-vaping and vaping advocates, which is a ban on menthol. Each side is aware of the fact that menthol flavors are most commonly used by the Black community, which makes the ban on menthol a highly charged topic.
Anti-vaping activists generally argue that banning menthol reduces the rate of addiction to nicotine within communities of color. The activists who oppose bans on menthol assert that the illegalization of menthol flavors will result in more police violence against Black communities regardless of whether the bans target distribution and not use.
The incident that occurred on the Maryland Boardwalk is a very obvious illustration of how a non-violent ban could be pushed to the limit and escalate into violence, even against youth whom the vaping prohibitions were intended to safeguard.