Earlier today, Americans for Tax Reform released a letter signed by 36 leading national and state-based organizations representing millions of taxpayers and consumers throughout the United States urging the Food and Drug Administration to reject a proposed ban on menthol cigarettes. This letter adds to a similar letter signed by 27 civil liberty and racial justice organizations organized by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and demonstrates overwhelming bipartisan opposition to this proposal.
The letter noted the devastating social impact of criminalizing an activity undertaken by over 18 million Americans, primarily from minority communities, asserting “If this proposal were to be enacted, it is inevitable that it would lead to further confrontations between individuals and law enforcement and break down trust even further. In addition, by diverting law enforcement resources to preventing the sale of menthol cigarettes, this policy will reduce the resources available for the prevention and solving of property and violent crimes.”
The letter continued, “We further draw your attention to the fact that any comprehensive analysis of the data from jurisdictions where menthol products have been banned demonstrates that, while the majority of users switch to non-menthol cigarettes, over 20% of menthol smokers moved to purchasing illicit products through the black market. Not only does this put all parties involved at risk of police involvement, the illicit tobacco market is increasingly been run by sophisticated international criminal syndicates, often with links to sex trafficking, money laundering and even, increasingly, terrorism.”
For these reasons, as the letter noted, the U.S. State Department has explicitly called tobacco smuggling, “a threat to national security”.
The letter also recognized the importance of promoting harm reduction over prohibition, writing, “If the FDA wishes to reduce smoking rates, the best way of doing this is not through bans, but rather embracing life-saving new technologies to help smokers quit. The science is now overwhelming that the most effective way for smokers to quit is through the use of non-combustible reduced risk tobacco alternatives, ranging from vapor and “heat not burn” devices, to oral nicotine delivery systems or moist loose tobacco (which the FDA already allows to be marketed as reducing the cancer risk for persons who make the switch).”
The letter concluded by urging the FDA to “engage in evidence-based policy making and embrace new technologies and alternative nicotine delivery systems that have been proven will be able to save millions of American lives.”
The full letter can be read below.