On a recent Saturday evening, law enforcement in Ocean City, Maryland tasered, kneed, and violently restrained teenagers for the crime of vaping in a public area. This disturbing incident is the result of efforts across the country to criminalize vaping, despite calls from Americans for Tax Reform, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and countless law enforcement agencies, that prohibitions disproportionately impact communities of color and are detrimental to criminal justice efforts because they exacerbate the over policing of minorities. 

In an opinion piece for InsideSources, ATR’s Karl Abramson explained how anti-vaping laws, such as flavor bans, bring about unequal criminal justice outcomes, all while harming public health. 

Amidst the ongoing nationwide discussion regarding police brutality and racial equality, the Biden administration is actively taking steps to prohibit menthol cigarettes, a move that would criminalize a product used predominately among Black smokers. The move is opposed by civil rights advocates like Al Sharpton and the ACLU who claim flavor prohibitions “disproportionately impact people and communities of color,” and “instigate unconstitutional policing and other negative interactions with local law enforcement.” The Ocean City incidents perfectly illustrate the validity of these concerns. 

When 18-year-old Taizier Griffin was tased by police, he was subject to more harm than vaping could ever cause. Since 2000, more than 1,000 people have died after being tased by police. A study has found the shock from a taser can lead to cardiac arrest and sudden death. There has not been a single recorded case of a vaper dying from nicotine-containing e-cigarette. Tragically, nine in 10 of those who have died from being tased by police were unarmed, just like Griffin. 

It should upset anyone who cares about criminal justice reform that the same politicians who claim to care about repairing the relationship between police and minority communities relentlessly push for restrictions on vaping. In doing so, they ignore the advice of countless medical experts, public health organizations, and civil rights advocates.” 

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