More than 60 criminal justice groups signed a letter Tuesday opposing a proposed ban on menthol cigarettes by the Food and Drug Administration.
The organizations, including the Alliance of Families for Justice, Equal Justice USA, and the Progressive Policy Institute, cited the likely disproportionate influence of the prohibition on minority groups.
Banning menthol cigarettes will lead to "illegal, unlicensed distribution in communities of color, while triggering criminal laws in all 50 states, increasing the incidence of negative interactions with police, and ultimately increasing incarceration rates," the letter read.
"There are far better solutions for reducing menthol cigarette use than criminalizing these products and turning this issue over to the police," it added.
The groups pointed to an official report by Massachusetts that found after the state implemented a flavored tobacco ban, illegal tobacco smuggling increased substantially, leading to an increase in law enforcement seizures.
In response, the state's Multi-Agency Illegal Tobacco Task Force recommended a next step — enforcement against individual consumers.
"The FDA has repeatedly claimed that individual-level enforcement would not occur. But by pushing these products out of its regulatory jurisdiction, it will push them into illicit markets subject to the criminal statutes in all 50 states," the groups noted.
The letter comes amid news that the Biden administration is close to finalizing the ban after a coalition of politicians and health organizations demanded they work faster, CBS News reported earlier this month.
On Wednesday, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., laid into the administration for still floating it, noting its different stance toward other substances.
"Joe Biden wants to ban menthol cigarettes, which are favored by black smokers. Meanwhile, he wants to legalize weed for white college kids and mail out free crack pipes," Cotton wrote on X.
"The administration's ban is paternalistic, it's hypocritical, and it creates a huge black market for Mexican cartels and Hezbollah," he continued. "And all because Mike Bloomberg told him to."
Bloomberg has repeatedly pushed for a ban on menthol cigarettes. His namesake organization published an op-ed in 2021 advocating for the FDA to consider a ban on the cigarettes.
Luca Cacciatore, a Newsmax general assignment writer, is based in Arlington, Virginia, reporting on news and politics.
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