As the Biden Administration continues to pursue federal bans on nearly all available cigarette products, the House Appropriations subcommittee for Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies is offering an opportunity to prevent these disastrous proposals, which would gift profits to criminal smugglers, from being implemented in the coming year.

One amendment, Sec. 768, would prevent federal funding of FDA from being used to finalize or implement their proposed de facto ban on cigarettes via a tobacco product standard that would create a maximum level of nicotine in cigarettes. The proposed maximum level would effectively ban every currently available cigarette product on the market, except for one. Sec. 769 would similarly prohibit federal funding from being used to further a ban on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars.

It is imperative that these amendments are included in the final appropriations bill as they would actively prevent policies that will drive down tax revenues across the nation and energize criminal smugglers. Lost revenue will place further strain on the budgets of many states, leading some to cut services or raise taxes. At this time of record-breaking inflation, while many families and businesses are still struggling with the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, these amendments ensure that FDA cannot implement such economically devastating policies.

If the White House was serious about reducing smoking and promoting health equity they would embrace harm reduction, not prohibition. Alternative nicotine products like e-cigarettes are proven to help those who smoke quit their deadly habit and improve their health. Instead, they seek a ban on menthol cigarettes. Making products more popular among Black Americans illegal will exacerbate inequality in African American communities. A diverse group of activists, civil rights organizations, and law enforcement groups, including the ACLU and National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers, oppose the proposed ban and have urged FDA to see the “warning signs of a racially discriminatory policy”.

Clearly, prohibitions on popular adult-use products, like alcohol in the 1920s, are not effective means of discouraging use of those products. Rather, it offers criminal organizations the chance to make massive profits. These profits come at the expense of taxpayers, local governments, and America’s national security. The amendments proposed to the appropriations bill will save taxpayer money instead of handing it to illicit smugglers.

Tobacco smuggling is largely run by international, multi-million-dollar crime syndicates who use the robust profits they earn from tobacco smuggling to fund other nefarious activities which include, but are not limited to, human trafficking, money laundering, and terrorism. A report from the U.S. Department of State explicitly calls the global illicit trade in tobacco “a threat to national security” and finds cigarette smuggling to be a “low-risk, high-reward criminal activity” in which smugglers make huge profits with little risk of detection.

In seeking to prohibit menthols and nearly all available cigarettes, the Biden Administration and FDA are energizing these smugglers. Removing legal access to nearly every cigarette product will cause many consumers to turn to the illicit market. This will lead to an increase in profits for these criminal groups, profits we know will fund highly dangerous activities that make America a significantly less safe country.

The amendments proposed by the House Appropriations subcommittee are necessary to protect America’s economy and national security. The Biden Administration must be prevented from further weakening the country’s economic stability.