Biden Delays Decision on Menthol Cigarette Ban Amid Civil Rights Concerns

The Biden administration is once again putting off making a decision about banning menthol-flavored cigarettes. They say they need more time to consider the “immense amount of feedback” they have received from different minority and civil rights groups.

Originally, the White House had said they would make a decision about the regulation by March, but they missed that date. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra explained that there are still more discussions to be had and it will take a lot more time. The proposed rule has had a lot of attention and a large amount of feedback from the public, including various civil rights and criminal justice groups.

White House officials explained that the rule proposal got tangled up in a review process between different agencies. They shared that they need more time to hear from outside groups before deciding whether to go ahead with the ban, especially wanting to hear from civil rights organizations.

There have been plans to potentially ban menthol cigarettes for several years, but the White House keeps missing the deadlines they set for themselves, including one in January to make a decision amid resistance from minority and civil liberties groups.

Public health advocates have been urging the White House to go forward with the ban, while criminal justice groups argue that it would unfairly make a popular product among Black smokers a criminal offense.

The American Civil Liberties Union is among the groups trying to persuade the White House not to ban menthol cigarettes. They say that it would “unfairly affect people of color” and prioritize criminalization over public health and reducing harm.

The White House has had over 100 meetings about the proposals with many groups on both sides of the issue, including convenience store owners associations and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.

Advocates for the ban are now concerned that the delays could let former President Donald Trump cancel it using the Congressional Review Act if he wins a second term.

Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association, said that “the administration’s inaction is allowing the tobacco industry to keep strongly marketing these products and attracting new users who get addicted.”

Some people are also noting that President Biden is having a tough time holding on to support from Black voters in an election year. A recent Wall Street Journal poll showed that a smaller percentage of Black men and women plan to vote for Biden compared to the last election.

The Biden administration has not given a new deadline for when they will decide about the potential menthol ban.

Written by Staff Reports

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