After a fiery year of cultural outrage against the state of policing in America, President Joe Biden’s administration has announced that they have heard the pleas of the people. They will not stand by while a nefarious force maliciously targets the African American community. America needs to ban menthol cigarettes.
Beyond the glaringly obvious problem of increasing the amount of dangerous police interactions, prohibition itself has a century long record of documented failure. Alcohol prohibition was short lived, the war on drugs has long been lost, and firearm involved violence is heaviest in areas with the strictest gun control. Many civil rights activists have pointed out how drug and weapons laws negatively affect people in minority and low income neighborhoods. One unfortunate consequence is the proliferation of black markets coupled with a general lack of opportunity that increases the amount of organized crime/gang activity and acquisitive crime in these areas. This leads to victimless crime enforcement turning into crime enforcement of those with victims.
The FDA briefing on the subject was spurred by a court deadline to address a 2013 citizen’s petition and has backing by some civil rights groups who claim that flavored tobacco creates a health disparity among racial groups, mirrored in a comment by acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock. She believes that the ban “will help save lives, particularly among those disproportionately affected by these deadly products.”
Critics of the ban are quick to point out the hypocrisy and short sightedness of the policy. Progressives claim that systemic racism plagues the justice system and argue “my body my choice” in conversations surrounding issues ranging from drug use, prostitution, and abortion. The ban outright ignores the presupposed right to choose. Even worse, it is criminally targeting the exact population its defenders claim to be helping.
Historically, many seemingly well intentioned government programs and legislation provide the opposite of the desired results. Increased taxes on tobacco in New York, implemented as a discouragement for the purchase and use of the products, created the environment that found Eric Garner choked to death for his alleged unlicensed sales of loose cigarettes. This new ban, proposed in the name of keeping Americans safer and healthier, will have the same tragic and distorted outcome.
Zach Kincaid is a songwriter and blue collar worker from Northern California.