The Biden administration is reportedly planning to ban menthol cigarettes, a move activists say would help black Americans who are disproportionately harmed by the tobacco industry.
The ban would set FDA policies surrounding menthol cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products. Critics are fearful that the alleged ban could lead to an underground market for such products, creating more opportunity for criminal activity.
"Such a ban will trigger criminal penalties, which will disproportionately impact people of color, as well as prioritize criminalization over public health and harm reduction," a letter from the ACLU to acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock and several other officials said. "A ban will also lead to unconstitutional policing and other negative interactions with local law enforcement."
The ACLU and dozens of others, including the Drug Policy Alliance, said the ban would have "serious racial justice implications."
It is unknown at this time what the punishment would be for illegally obtaining menthol products under the ban, but the letter asked for an approach that "avoids criminalization."
"Our experience with alcohol, opioid, and cannabis prohibition teaches us that that is a policy disaster waiting to happen, with Black and other communities of color bearing the brunt," the letter said.