Biden administration declares war on menthol, sparking opposition across the political spectrum

The White House is waging war on menthol – the last flavor allowed in cigarettes – and flavored cigars, announcing Thursday that the administration intends to ban popular additives in tobacco products.

It was the first blow in an uphill battle that advocates said would prevent the industry from marketing to children and minority communities where flavored tobacco has proven popular.

“With these actions, the FDA will help dramatically reduce youth initiation, increase the odds of smoking cessation among current smokers, and address health disparities faced by communities of color, low-income populations and LGBTQ + people, all of whom are much more likely to use these tobacco products, ”Acting Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Janet Woodcock said in a statement on Thursday.

The FDA also cites studies that suggest menthol cigarettes can be more addictive and harder to quit.

The announcement, however, brought a rare moment of unity as experts from across the political spectrum criticized the measure, which many saw as onerous. With no details on the implementation of the ban, some say it could be used as another way to criminalize black communities, who smoke menthol cigarettes and flavored tobacco products in much higher numbers. .

“Unless the federal government attempts to turn menthol itself into a controlled substance, there will surely be many small sellers of menthol cigarettes catering to the demand of the millions of Americans who smoke them, including at least 77. % of black smokers, but maybe up to 88% (and about a quarter of white smokers), ”notes the libertarian publication Reason.

A letter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), obtained by Bo Erickson of CBS, said the move would have “serious racial justice implications” because of criminal penalties, which could “have a disproportionate impact on individuals. of color “.

“A ban on menthol cigarettes would disproportionately affect communities of color, leading to criminalization and more incarceration,” the ACLU said. tweeted. “We can avoid this approach.”

Olayemi Olurin, Public Defender at the Legal Aid Society, also wrote on Twitter, “Why specifically menthol cigarettes as opposed to all cigarettes? This is a blunt and outrageous criminalization aimed at the black community. Why is it that the only way they seem to want to ‘help’ our communities is to create more roads to incarceration. ”

Even some high profile conservatives have clung to the same criticism.

“Benefit to !?” By banning something that people like? Only politicians, gullible journalists and security totalitarians think so. It just creates a new black market that will unnecessarily send MORE black Americans to jail, ”said libertarian television star John Stossel. tweeted.

The actress has become QAnon’s far-right supporter Kirstie Alley remark, “Okay I haven’t smoked in 5 years, but let me understand … the FDA is going to ban menthol cigarettes because they appeal to teenagers … but WEED is now legal in most places? We’re all going to hell. “

“NO KOOL: Biden administration considering ban on menthol flavored tobacco products,” Fox News host Sean Hannity, who was caught smoking on his prime-time show, title one of the posts posted on its website.

Right-wing radio host Sebastian Gorka also wrote on Instagram: “Biden’s biggest threats to America: ‘White supremacist terrorism’ and menthol cigarettes. These people are just clowns.”

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