The Sentencing Project submitted comments to the Food and Drug Administration on the proposed Tobacco Product Standard for Menthol in Cigarettes.
We oppose the proposed FDA ban on menthol cigarettes because it is a continuation and deepening of the War on Drugs. The War on Drugs demonstrates the failures of criminalization as a public health response: over fifty years after the War on Drugs began overdoses have reached an all-time high. Criminalization does not halt substance use, it stigmatizes it, forces people into riskier patterns of use, compels individuals to rely on the illicit market for their supply, and raises the risk of exposure to contaminated or adulterated substances.
A ban on menthol cigarettes would perpetuate the harms of the War on Drugs and deepen racial disparities in policing and contribute to the increased criminalization of communities of color. The profound individual and public health harms associated with racially disparate law enforcement and incarceration have the potential to outweigh any potential public health benefits of menthol cigarette prohibition. We urge the FDA to instead embrace a harm reduction approach.