A coalition of more than 50 criminal justice reform groups sent a letter to U.S. President Joe Biden warning that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s proposed ban on flavored tobacco products will lead to overpolicing in communities of color, according to The Hill.
Prohibition-style policies, like the one proposed, “have serious racial justice implications,” wrote the organizations, which include Blacks in Law Enforcement, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the National Latino Officers Association and the Sentencing Project.
“Banning the legal sale of menthol cigarettes through licensed businesses will lead—and, in fact, has already led in some states—to illegal, unlicensed distribution in communities of color while triggering criminal laws in all 50 states, increasing the incidence of negative interactions with police and ultimately increasing incarceration rates,” the letter said. “There are far better solutions for reducing menthol cigarette use than criminalizing these products and turning this issue over to the police.”
The aim of the flavor ban is not only to make smoking less attractive but also to advance health equity, according to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra
“FDA has the power to provide smokers with less harmful options and information to help accelerate reductions in smoking,” the coalition wrote in its letter. “Rushing forward with a total ban without these alternatives in place contradicts everything we know—and everything the administration has been saying in other spheres—about why harm reduction works and criminalization doesn’t.” The coalition urged the FDA to reconsider the ban and find solutions opposed to criminalization.