The White House just delayed its scheduled ban on menthol cigarettes and speculation is rampant on what is really behind the decision.
While the move to ban the particular cigarettes is not new, the Food and Drug Administration only formally proposed a regulation about them last year. But in the months that have followed, the Biden administration has faced “intense lobbying from tobacco companies, convenience stores and industry-backed groups that contend that billions of dollars in sales and jobs will be lost,” The New York Times reported.
“The proposal has also generated concerns that Black smokers will become the targets of aggressive police tactics, although some Black leaders, top lawmakers and government officials dispute that and say that tobacco companies are financing and fueling those fears,” the newspaper continued.
NEWPORTS MUST GO.
This Administration can’t get any more ridiculous.
Isn’t this a RACIST STATEMENT.
Biden administration expected to delay menthol cigarette ban, fearing possible anger from Black voters.
I am speechless. pic.twitter.com/Ov0ZwzalVz
— Kendra Sexton (@kendradsexton) December 6, 2023
While the ban continues to be pushed off, some believe legal challenges may well keep it from ever seeing the light of day.
Concerns about President Joe Biden’s 2024 re-election prospects are reportedly a factor, with The Times noting that “politics of banning menthol cigarettes are delicate for Mr. Biden.”
“He cannot afford to appear as though he is condescending to Black voters, who have long been a key Democratic constituency. Recent polling shows that Black voters are increasingly disconnected from the Democratic Party, and even some of Mr. Biden’s allies have expressed concerns that a lack of enthusiasm among African Americans will keep them from the polls,” the article continued.
NMA stands united against the delay on the menthol cigarette ban! Today, Dr. Yolanda Lawson & leaders from Black organizations express disappointment in the White House’s decision. We demand the promised final rule this year to save 45,000 Black lives lost to smoking annually. pic.twitter.com/POAdcFAZv9
— National Medical Association (@NationalMedAssn) December 7, 2023
Speaking on the Senate floor on Wednesday, Sen. Richard J. Durbin, the Democratic majority whip from Illinois, argued that the voter turnout fears were “greatly exaggerated.”
“And I want to make it clear,” he said, “they’re peddling stories — Big Tobacco is — that we’re going to go out and arrest African Americans if they use menthol cigarettes. But that’s not the case at all.”
Punting menthol cigarette ban into the future for some reason. I wonder why? Could the administration fear losing votes?
If you have to change law enactment scheduling because people don’t want the law, and you fear electoral consequences, you shouldn’t enact the law at all.
— John C Smith (@JohnCSmith55731) December 7, 2023
“Any delay in finalizing the FDA’s menthol rule would be a gift to the tobacco industry at the expense of Black lives,” said Yolanda Richardson, CEO of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “We urge the administration to keep its promise and issue a final rule by the end of this year.”
“An estimated 85 percent of Black smokers use menthols, according to the FDA, compared with 30 percent of white smokers. About 40 percent of excess deaths due to menthol cigarette smoking in the U.S. between 1980 and 2018 were among African Americans,” The Hill reported, citing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
A Nov. 20 meeting with senior Biden administration officials was attended by tobacco companies, civil rights attorney Ben Crump, and representatives from Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network who turned out to lobby against the ban.
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