Biden Administration Puts Menthol Cigarette Ban, Fears Losing Black Voters

The Biden administration has announced an indefinite delay in its efforts to ban menthol cigarettes a decision that comes after significant public attention and feedback from various civil rights and criminal justice groups. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra stated that the rule has garnered “historic attention” during the public comment period prompting the administration to reevaluate its approach.

“It’s clear that there are still more conversations to have and that will take significantly more time,” Becerra wrote in a statement explaining the delay.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had previously announced in April 2022 its intention to add mint-flavored cigarettes to its list of banned flavors following a study of the issue in October 2023. The agency had set a deadline of March 2024 for the administration to take action against menthol cigarettes.

However, the proposed ban has faced opposition from within the Black community with leaders arguing that it could lead to an expansion of the illicit cigarette market and increased racial profiling of Black individuals. The FDA had estimated that in 2018 there were approximately 18.5 million menthol cigarette smokers aged 12 and up in the U.S. with particularly high rates of use among youth young adults African Americans and other racial and ethnic groups.

The administration’s decision to delay the ban has raised questions about its motives with some speculating that it may be related to concerns over President Joe Biden’s decreasing popularity among Black voters a key constituency that overwhelmingly supported him in the 2020 election.