That’s Not Kool: Biden’s Racial Menthol Cigarette Ban Raises Ire and Eyebrows Alike 

New Africa /
New Africa /

You are forgiven for being unaware of President Joe Biden’s sneak attack on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. His ban, which has been in the works since the spring of 2021, is set to be finalized and possibly in place as early as mid-November. 

Healthcare advocates who back Biden’s ban assert that menthol cigarettes have a disproportionate impact on cancer-related fatalities within the black community, as approximately 80% of these products are consumed by Black individuals and Latinos. 

But critics of this authoritarian ban offer a different view, recommending that instead of a universal ban of these products, it would be more prudent to provide adults with regulated tobacco alternatives rather than inadvertently pushing them towards acquiring unregulated contraband, often originating from China. 

Elliot Boyce, director of Diverse Perspectives and a 35-year New York State Police Veteran, shares concerns that the ban will cause users to seek illegal “black market” alternatives, turning the use of these products into a law enforcement issue. 

“Menthol becomes contraband and now it becomes a cop issue,” said Boyce, going on to add that such a ban, as seen in Massachusetts and California, has not effectively curtailed cigarette smoking, but instead pushes people to purchase cigarettes from illicit sources, often involving street transactions as seen for illegal drugs. 

Boyce notes that banning menthol cigarettes could lead to a growing black market demand, which in turn could create challenges for law enforcement without clear guidelines. This shift would transform a health issue, focusing on health equity in the black community, into a criminal matter, potentially resulting in more dangerous encounters between individuals and the police.  

The FDA has acknowledged the likelihood of an increase in cigarette trafficking, which is deemed equally dangerous as cigarette use for Black Americans. 

Art Way, a senior Drug Policy Alliance policymaker, further argues that the statistics the Biden administration is citing to justify the ban are flawed. Way notes that the primary justifications for banning menthol, such as past tobacco industry promotion and advertising, primarily affected generations that are now elderly. He points out that black communities, like others, are moving away from tobacco. Way expressed concerns that the ban is not truly beneficial for users but appears to be more of a symbolic retribution against the industry. 

Way argues that the Biden administration’s statistics don’t consider the decline in smoking among young people in recent decades, both in and outside the black community. He observes that while 48,000 deaths related to cancer are often mentioned, those figures don’t account for the fact that most of these individuals are over the age of 65.

Way goes on to note that the leading cause of death for African American males between the ages of 1 and 25 is homicide, and introducing a popular commodity to the streets could lead to violent encounters while shifting a health issue into a criminal one. He suggests that education, treatment, and counseling have been effective in reducing smoking rates, especially among young adults, making the proposed ban unnecessary. 

But wait, says Way, there is more. He notes the past negative consequences of public health policies, citing historical examples like the drug war and the incarceration of low-level, nonviolent users and dealers, which disproportionately affected communities. He went on to emphasize the need to be cautious when public health policies involve enforcement elements. He also went on to point out the possibility of police involvement, the creation of contraband, and the potential for local jurisdictions to implement their criminal laws, all stemming from the ban. 

Additionally, Way questions the rationale behind banning menthol cigarettes, particularly when only around 2% of African-American youth are using them. They argue that the tobacco industry is already moving in the right direction, and the absence of cessation support within the ban suggests it is more symbolic, retributive, and politically motivated. 

Once again, we witness the unshakable dedication of progressives to champion a dubious agenda, all in the name of supposedly supporting minorities they assume incapable of making their own decisions. It’s the same party that appears to harbor the belief that Black Americans struggle with basic math and English, face insurmountable challenges in obtaining a voter ID, and are unable to obtain a college education on their own scholastic merits. Furthermore, if any Black American dares to deviate from the liberal narrative, they are promptly demonized and told, as President Biden so eloquently put it, that they “aren’t Black.” 

In this bizarre world, where liberals claim to champion diversity and equality, their actions couldn’t be more transparently condescending.  It’s OK – Papa Biden knows best.