Eric Thompson

Biden SCRAPS plan to ban menthol Cigarettes Amid Fear of Alienating Black Voters

In a move that has raised eyebrows across the political spectrum, the Biden administration appears to be backing away from its previously announced plan to ban menthol cigarettes.

This decision is seen by many as a strategic retreat aimed at avoiding alienation of Black voters—a key demographic for the President’s potential re-election bid in 2024.

The proposed ban on menthol cigarettes, which was initially put forward by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in April 2021, was intended to address health disparities.

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The FDA had pointed out that menthol cigarettes are disproportionately used by young people and African Americans, leading to higher rates of addiction and adverse health outcomes in these communities.

However, recent reports suggest that the Biden administration is now shelving this plan. Critics argue that this reversal may be less about public health and more about political calculus.

With the 2024 presidential election on the horizon, some believe that President Biden’s team fears pushing forward with a ban could erode support among Black voters—who overwhelmingly supported him in the 2020 election.

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The statistics around menthol cigarette usage are stark. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 85% of Black smokers prefer menthol cigarettes compared to just 29% of White smokers. This preference has been linked to targeted advertising by tobacco companies towards African American communities over decades.

Supporters of the ban argue it would be a significant step toward reducing smoking rates among African Americans and ultimately saving lives. However, opponents have raised concerns about potential unintended consequences, including criminalization stemming from black market sales.

The political implications of this policy reversal are significant. As one source familiar with White House thinking stated: “They don’t want [the ban] being turned into ‘Biden is banning Newport. Biden is coming after Black folks.'” This sentiment reflects an acute awareness within the administration of how policy decisions can impact voter perceptions—and potentially voter turnout.

Moreover, there’s an argument to be made about personal freedom and choice—tenets often championed by conservative voices—which come into play when discussing bans like this one. The idea that adults should have the right to make their own choices regarding what they consume is a powerful counterpoint to public health arguments for prohibition.

It’s also worth noting that some civil rights groups have opposed such bans on grounds they could lead to increased interactions between police and African Americans. Given recent national conversations around policing and racial justice, these concerns add another layer of complexity to any decision-making process regarding such policies.

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The economic aspect cannot be ignored either; tobacco taxes contribute significantly to state revenues. A ban on menthol cigarettes could potentially create a dent in those funds unless offset by other means—a consideration not lost on policymakers who must balance public health initiatives with fiscal realities.

This development comes as part of a broader pattern where difficult policy decisions are being reconsidered or delayed as President Biden’s approval ratings face challenges amid inflation concerns and other pressing issues facing Americans today.

As we look ahead, it remains unclear how this decision will play out politically for President Biden and his administration. While some may view it as a pragmatic move designed to maintain crucial voter support, others see it as capitulation—a retreat from tackling tough issues head-on for fear of electoral repercussions.

What is clear is that public health policy continues to intersect with politics in ways that can sometimes lead us down unexpected paths—paths where outcomes are uncertain and debates are surefire guarantees. As we navigate these complex waters, only time will tell how decisions like these will shape both our nation’s health landscape and its political future.


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