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Americans for Tax Reform today strongly condemned the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) proposed rulemaking to institute prohibition for menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. The proposal is opposed by all major law enforcement, civil rights, and criminal justice reform organizations such as the American Council on Civil Liberties (ACLU), Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers, the National Black Justice Coalition, and the National Association of Social Workers.

 “This misguided proposal will have disastrous impacts on public health and public safety. It will do nothing to reduce smoking rates and instead put vulnerable minorities in jeopardy, and make the United States less safe.” said Tim Andrews, ATR’s Director of Consumer Issues. “It is unfortunate that as Americans have increased awareness of the dangers minorities face, the FDA is implementing policies that will put lives in danger, and create a significant possibility of further tragedies as befell Eric Garner and many others”.

The academic evidence and international experience is clear – this proposal  will do nothing to reduce smoking rates, but will simply lead to people purchasing products on the black market. This exposes vulnerable members of minority communities to conflict with law enforcement, and their purchases could also fund sophisticated international criminal syndicates. According to the US Department of State, illicit tobacco’s links to funding terrorist organizations are already a serious threat to national security. This policy would worsen the problem while also depriving state governments of excise revenue, putting state government programs at risk.

“If the FDA were serious about reducing smoking rates, they would accept the science and follow the recommendation of over 100 of the world’s leading medical bodies to embrace reduced risk tobacco alternatives, such as e-cigarettes, which have been proven 95% safer than combustible cigarettes and academic modelling from Georgetown University Medical Centre shows would lead to 6.6 million lives saved in the United States. 

Andrews concluded: “Make no mistake: This proposed rulemaking will inevitably lead to further growth of illicit markets, put members of minority communities in danger, and divert law enforcement resources away from real crime. It ignores best practice expert recommendations on how to reduce smoking rates through proven harm reduction technologies, is a disaster for public health, and will make all Americans less safe. If the Biden Administration truly cared about the American people, they would junk this anti-science and genuinely harmful “proposal” immediately, and instead follow the science and adopt a proven effective harm reduction approach.