by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
A new Biden administration effort to regulate cigarettes will bankroll street gangs and bankrupt U.S. tobacco farmers, experts say.
The Food and Drug Administration is preparing this month to require lower nicotine content in all cigarettes—a move critics argue will wreck the $75 billion U.S. tobacco industry amid a global economic crisis and boost a black market as crime spikes nationwide. The news comes weeks after the agency announced its plans to ban menthol cigarettes, which will cost federal and local governments an estimated $6.6 billion in the first year alone.
Richard Marianos, a 27-year veteran of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, said these regulations will shift the demand for cigarettes toward unregulated tobacco grown internationally, which is then purchased and sold by drug dealers.
“The problem again with this administration is they do not take into consideration a totality of subject matter experts,” Marianos told the Washington Free Beacon. “I’ve never seen this much foolishness in my life.”
Marianos, who worked on gang violence at the ATF, said the black market for cigarettes is dominated by street gangs and would grow at least a hundredfold after the FDA implements its nicotine decision. He claims one of his former informants discovered some dealers make $5,000 selling cigarettes in a single afternoon. The FDA’s “uneducated and silly” cigarette plan, he said, would require law enforcement to focus on tobacco sales rather than drugs and violent crime.
The FDA’s cigarette regulations are a part of the Biden administration’s larger “harm reduction” strategy that enables illicit drug use while criminalizing tobacco. The Free Beacon reported in February that the Department of Health and Human Services was set to fund the distribution of crack pipes through a $30 million harm reduction program, which according to the New York Times sparked an “uproar” that “derailed” the agency’s entire drug policy.