Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, recently wrote a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, urging him to oppose the Biden administration’s proposed ban on menthol cigarettes. In her passionate plea, she expressed concerns that banning menthol cigarettes could potentially lead to an increase in negative interactions between police and communities of color. Carr highlighted the potential consequences of creating an illicit market for menthol cigarettes and the resulting impact on minority communities.
Carr emphasized that while she does not endorse smoking, she fears that a ban on menthol cigarettes could inadvertently harm black and Hispanic individuals. She pointed to the dangerous encounters that can occur when the sale of loose cigarettes is criminalized, referencing her son’s tragic death in 2014. She urged Schumer to consider the potential negative outcomes of the proposed ban and called for a thorough and inclusive study before any decisions are made.
— New York Post (@nypost) November 10, 2023
The proposed ban, announced by President Biden’s Food and Drug Administration, aims to outlaw menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, citing their disproportionate popularity among black smokers. The FDA referenced a study indicating that a menthol ban could prompt hundreds of thousands of smokers, including a significant number of black Americans, to quit within a short period.
Opponents of the ban, including the Cigar Association of America, have presented evidence to the Biden administration, questioning the public health benefits and the legality of the proposed ban. Additionally, concerns have been raised about the potential reluctance of law enforcement to enforce a crime with “no victim,” as police departments have already faced challenges with policing marijuana.
Despite the opposition, the FDA has sent its final rule for the ban to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget for review, signaling that the menthol mandate is in its final stages of approval. Carr, along with members of affected communities, has called for a comprehensive review of the ban’s implications and the establishment of a commission to conduct a thorough racial impact study.
While Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra has framed the proposed ban as a step toward advancing health equity, Carr and others continue to voice their concerns about the potential consequences for minority communities. As the debate surrounding the menthol ban unfolds, the Biden administration and its allies in Congress face mounting pressure to consider the diverse perspectives and potential impact on communities of color before moving forward with any bans on menthol cigarettes.