by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
President Joe Biden will soon roll out a national ban on menthol cigarettes and other flavored cigars, a move that is vehemently opposed by some black law enforcement officers and drug policy experts despite its billing as a public health initiative.
The ban, which has been in the works since the spring of 2021, was transmitted by the Food and Drug Administration to the White House Office of Management and Budget in October. The ban will be finalized over the next 30-90 days and could be published as early as Nov. 13.
Healthcare advocates supporting Biden’s ban argue that menthol cigarettes disproportionately cause cancer-related deaths in the black community, with black people and Latinos consuming roughly 80% of all products.
However, multiple experts tell the Washington Examiner that despite the proclaimed health focus, the new regulations will have new unintended, discriminatory impacts on black people and other communities of color.
They specifically fault the ban for not including cessation options, including counseling, treatment, and other education programs, which will, in turn, push smokers to purchase illicit cigarettes on the black market, rather than quit cold turkey, once menthol is no longer legally available.
All the experts who spoke with the Washington Examiner explicitly condemned tobacco use, but they suggested that, especially given the education options and current stigmatization of smoking in modern America, it was wiser to give adults regulated tobacco options rather than lead them toward purchasing unregulated contraband likely sourced from China.
The White House declined to comment on critiques of the president’s ban.
Elliot Boyce, a 35-year veteran of the New York State Police and director and CEO of Diverse Perspectives, told the Washington Examiner that the administration could have avoided, or at least minimized these negative effects, had it consulted law enforcement groups throughout the rulemaking process.