National Black & Hispanic Editors, Publishers, Law Enforcement Groups Issue Warning to the FDA: A Menthol Ban Would Increase Police Interactions in Communities of Color

May 04, 2021 1:42 PM ET


The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), representing more than 200 African-American owned community newspapers from around the United States, have joined together with the nation's leading Black and Hispanic law enforcement executives to urge the FDA to see the warning signs of a racially discriminatory policy: the menthol cigarette ban or prohibition. The FDA must respond by April 29 to a citizen petition demanding menthol cigarettes be banned nationwide.

Signers of the Letter


  • NNPA (National Newspaper Publishers Association)

  • LEAP (Law Enforcement Action Partnership)

  • NOBLE (National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives)

  • NBS (Newark Bronze Shields)

  • NABCJ (National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice)

  • NABLEO (National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers)

  • NLOA (National Latino Officers Association)

  • GCGNY (Grand Council of Guardians New York)

  • NORST (National Organization of Retired State Troopers)

"It is clear that there is no factual basis to assert that a menthol cigarette ban will stop people of color from smoking," says Dr. Benjamin Chavis, President & CEO of NNPA. "In fact, the unintended consequences of such a racially discriminatory ban will set the stage for more negative and more likely counterproductive interactions between law enforcement and people of color."

A Prohibition Gives Police Another Reason to Detain Someone

Given pervasive negative interactions between police and people of color in the U.S., proponents of a menthol ban believe that by including prohibitive language in the legislation, police officers will not utilize a menthol ban to interact with smokers and possessors.

Daily interactions between police and people of color demonstrate that a menthol ban would give police pretext to approach a smoker to find out where cigarettes were purchased in order to get to the seller of the counterfeit tobacco. In recent times, our nation, the world, has seen far too many cases of these encounters lead to verbal and physical altercations and often fatal results.

There are numerous examples of the reality of policing in America and its impact on black Americans. Recently, many states have asked officers not to write tickets or pull over civilians because of expired licenses due to motor vehicle department delays because of the pandemic. Despite this guidance, this month the nation again witnessed a young man lose his life after a police stop, this time due to expired tags. The national law against "stop-question-and frisk" or "stop-and-frisk" policy did not prevent this tactic from being a primary tool in local and state wars against crime and drugs.

State bans against chokeholds did not prevent many people of color from losing their lives in a fashion like Eric Garner and George Floyd. Police agencies have internal policies claiming dice or air fresheners hanging from rearview mirrors are reasonable suspicion for stops and searches. It is difficult to police the police.

The organizations' urge the FDA commissioners to consider the reality of community policing in America today, as well as the impact of the illicit market if a menthol ban is imposed.

A prohibition gives police another reason to detain someone. A prohibition diverts police from serious, violent crimes. Unfortunately, incidents of police misconduct towards people of color happen frequently in this country. Each one increases the hostility between police and the communities they serve and negatively affects police and criminal justice reform measures.

The Ineffectiveness of a Menthol Ban for Cessation

According to the U.S. Surgeon General report on smoking cessation "the evidence is suggestive but not sufficient to infer that restricting the sale of certain types of tobacco products, such as menthol or other flavored products, increases smoking cessation, especially among certain populations."

The NNPA and black and Hispanic law enforcement organizations are not ignoring the devastating impact that tobacco and menthol cigarettes have had on the black community. However, numerous reports remind you that overall smoking rates in the U.S. are the lowest they have ever been in public health history. In addition, Black menthol smokers have the same overall cessation rates as their non-menthol white counterparts.

The organizations have issued one request of the FDA: To exhaust all options before wholly removing menthol cigarettes from legal, regulatory channels and opening the door for the aforementioned concerns.

Claudette Perry
National Newspaper Publishers Association


Contact Information:

Claudette Perry
National Newspaper Publishers Association

Tags: Wire, Legal Newswire, United States, English

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.