Some have argued that prohibiting the sale of menthol products would be discriminatory toward Black people - "it's their cigarette; they prefer them." This line of argumentation turns the world upside down. It was, and continues to be, the tobacco industry that pushed these products down our throats in the first place through saturation advertising, lucrative promotions, free giveaways, and discounted pricing; yes, menthol cigarettes are cheaper in the Black Community, not to mention the silencing of our media and leadership groups through strategically pernicious manipulation and co-optation.
Others have argued that prohibiting the sale of menthol cigarettes will lead to increased criminalization of Black people by the police; that black males, in particular, will be arrested for possessing menthol cigarettes. Nothing could be further from the truth. Let's be clear, H.R.2339 will outlaw the sale of these products, not the possession or use of them.
The Bill states on Page 6:
''(iii) APPLICABILITY TO CERTAIN INDIVIDUALS.-Notwithstanding any provision of this Act, no individual who purchases for individual consumption, possesses for individual consumption, or consumes, a tobacco product that is in violation of the prohibition under this subparagraph, including a tobacco product that contains a characterizing flavor of menthol, shall be subject to any criminal penalty under this Act for such purchase, possession, or consumption, nor shall such purchase, possession, or consumption be used as a justification to stop, search, or conduct any other investigative measure against any individual.''
On Page 9:
4) LIMITATION ON ENFORCEMENT.-A law enforcement officer of a State or political subdivision thereof may not enforce (including by making any stop, search, seizure, or arrest or by pursuing any prosecution, trial, or punishment) any provision of section 907(a)(1)(A) or 910(h) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, as amended and added by this subsection.
Moreover, there haven't been any arrests, that's no one, not Black or otherwise, for possessing menthol products in the jurisdictions where the sale of these products is prohibited. Again, this bill is not about possession, it is about manufacturing and sale.
Still, other commentators state that outlawing menthol cigarettes will lead to a black market. There is not a scintilla of evidence that a black market has arisen in any of the jurisdictions where menthol is prohibited for sale.
We are glad to see that the majority of the CBC rejected these falsehoods instigated by the tobacco industry and stood firm in the support of the Black Community.
The AATCLC looks forward to working with Chairperson Bass and the CBC in the near future, in a joint fight to save the 45,000 Black Lives lost each year to tobacco-induced diseases. We look forward to working to ensure that our people our provided with the services they need to quit smoking. For more information about the AATCLC, please visit our website, www.savingblacklives.org
Carol McGruder, Co-Chair AATCLC
Phillip Gardiner, Dr. P.H., Co-Chair AATCLC
Valerie Yerger, N.D., Founding Member AATCLC