The Food and Drug Administration is plowing ahead with a proposal to ban the sale of menthol cigarettes. The agency says its goal is to “significantly reduce disease and death” from smoking.
But is that really the case? The R Street Institute’s Eli Lehrer writes it could cause other, bigger issues:
…during a period of racial reckoning and growing distrust between black communities that have high densities of menthol smokers and law enforcement, there’s a risk that a ban could have severe negative consequences. While no currently proposed standard would criminalize mere possession of menthol cigarettes, drug laws — including those already governing the sale of illicit “loosey” cigarettes — have long blurred lines between dealer and user. In New York City, the fine for selling illicit cigarettes stands at $600 per carton and criminal charges are possible. For people in neighborhoods where fraught interactions with the police are already commonplace, these laws have certainly caused serious problems before. Exhibit A: Eric Garner, who was killed by a New York City police officer’s chokehold in 2014, was arrested on suspicion of selling “loosies” without proper tax stamps.
In other words, this new prohibition has the potential to be as disastrous as other forms of prohibition.