Fox. Al Sharpton, civil rights lawyer Ben Crump and relatives of George Floyd, a black man killed by a white Minneapolis police officer in 2020, have argued that the rules, if enacted, will give law enforcement another reason to target black people – potentially black lives in danger.
“What we said is, ‘You all have to consider the unintended consequences.’ Imagine a police officer pulling a child over and saying, ‘Where did you buy or get that Kool cigarette?’ “Sharpton told POLITICO Thursday after the FDA announcement. “People are not going to stop smoking Newports and Kools because of a rule. They are going to go and get them from people walking on the street on the black market. What happens then? That̵[ads1]7;s all I ask.”
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus are divided, but an aide to the group said that the push from civil rights leaders in recent weeks has “led members to think more about what could be potential unintended consequences.”
“The proposed ban could also have serious economic and criminal implications for communities across the country,” Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Va.), Said in a statement. It will “disproportionately affect African Americans and low-income communities, while tobacco products commonly used by predominantly white or more affluent populations will remain unchecked.” McEachin has voted against legislation that would have banned menthol cigarettes.
But the CBC has long been divided over the sale of menthol cigarettes, and many members were quick to praise the Biden administration’s efforts.
“I have seen in my own family and through my own life experience the consequences of the tobacco industry specifically targeting the black society in America,” Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.) Said in a statement. “It’s time for these highly addictive menthol cigarettes to be banned.”
The FDA intends to hold listening sessions in June to discuss many of these concerns.
Menthol cigarettes, characterized by a mint flavor that hides the hard taste of tobacco and allows for deeper inhalation, accounted for more than a third of all cigarette sales in 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than eight out of 10 black smokers use menthol cigarettes, partly due to targeted ads and campaigns from tobacco companies.
As a result, these people incur more of the health consequences of smoking than other races and ethnicities. A study from 2021 found that although black Americans make up 12 percent of the population, they incurred 41 percent of all deaths and 50 percent of life years lost due to menthol cigarettes between 1980 and 2018.
In a statement, NAACP President Derrick Johnson praised the administration for the proposed rules. “The effects of menthol have been devastating and deadly to far too many black people,” it said. “Big Tobacco is specifically targeting our communities, and we’re sorry.”
But the concerns about chronic illness do not displace for many the more immediate fear of a potential police action that could lead to arrest, imprisonment or violence.
“The FDA has very publicly stated that it has no intention of criminalizing people who only possess menthol products, but they do not understand the connection between enforcement on the ground and police intervention,” said Diane Goldstein, chair of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership. with a focus on criminal justice and drug policy reforms. LEAP has received funding from RJ Reynolds, a company that produces Newport menthol cigarettes, but says it does so because it is an ideal group and the donations do not affect political positions.
Public health experts fear that if the ban were delayed, the real benefits would be the tobacco companies.
“Mixing police violence with public health measures, such as getting rid of menthol, in a way does the whole thing,” said Phillip Gardiner, co-chair of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council. “The thing that would have the biggest impact on black lives and save black lives would be to get menthol cigarettes and cigars with taste straight out of the black society.”
His group is one of more than a dozen that asked the FDA to ban menthol cigarettes in 2013 to protect the lives of blacks. The group filed a lawsuit against the FDA in 2020, claiming that it failed to take meaningful action against menthol. In November last year, a judge decided to wait until June to decide the case on the grounds that the FDA would issue these rules before then.
Curtains have argued that the FDA’s actions must be supported by additional tools to help black smokers quit.
Nevertheless, many fear that supporters of this ban place too much emphasis on one type of danger and not enough on another.
“I’ve been a civil rights lawyer for over 25 years, but I’ve been black all my life,” said Crump, the civil rights lawyer. “There is a difference between theory and reality. The reality is that we know that when you make laws and such, you have local and state actors who use them as weapons to marginalize black people. “