The Biden administration is preparing to announce a ban on menthol cigarettes across the United States.
WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is about to issue a proposed regulatory rule prohibiting the sale and production of menthol cigarettes across the United States. The administration of President Joe Biden said that a potential menthol ban would be one of the FDA’s most aggressive tobacco control measures in recent years,
FDA was granted the regulatory power in 2009, with the passage of the Tobacco Control Act. Public health groups have been awaiting a menthol ban for years, and as the policy could soon be a reality, civil liberties groups are concerned that there could be an increase in unconstitutional policing that will directly impact communities of color.
“We’re seeing time and time again in police encounters for really minor offenses that these encounters will escalate into violence and killings of people of color,” said Aamra Ahmad, the senior policy counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), via POLITICO and CBS News online. The ACLU and about two-dozen groups, including criminal justice reform groups like the Drug Policy Alliance, even sent a letter to the FDA and the White House outlining potential unconstitutional policing concerns.
“There is a better approach that avoids criminalization,” the groups argue in the letter. “We strongly support the FDA and other policymakers continuing with harm reduction policies emphasizing education for adults and minors, cessation, well-funded health care for communities of color, and other measures that push tobacco use down without putting criminal justice reform at risk.”
The groups also cite the deaths of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and George Floyd to argue that “such a ban will trigger criminal penalties, which will disproportionately impact people of color, as well as prioritize criminalization over public health and harm reduction. A ban will also lead to unconstitutional policing and other negative interactions with local law enforcement.”
Sources told national media outlets that Biden is likely to announce a ban on Thursday. This is the day that the Food and Drug Administration was ordered by a court to respond to a citizen petition advocating for a menthol ban that was filed in 2013.
Public health organizations like the American Medical Association, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Lung Association, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids have all advocated for menthol cigarette bans. These tobacco control groups have also attempted to connect the epidemic of youth vaping to the epidemic of menthol cigarette smoking in certain communities, including some that are considered at-risk and intersectional.
This is a developing story.