(ConservativeSense.com) – A Republican Senator is warning that a proposed ban on menthol cigarettes would boost the black market. Tom Cotton of Arkansas wrote to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Attorney General Merrick Garland, saying a ban would potentially provide funding for terrorist groups who he claimed make millions on the black market and use the cash to fund terrorist activity.
The Senator said it is well known that terror groups use the illicit market to fund their activities, including Hamas, Hezbollah, and Al-Qaida. Cotton reminded Becerra and Garland that the proposal, published in May 2022, acknowledges the potential for black market expansion but assumes this would be minimal. However, an Obama administration report refuted that assumption and noted, “traffickers can make millions, with little risk of detection or harsh punishments.”
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said last year that banning menthol cigarettes is a “top priority,” but campaigners worried it would be pushed back until after the Presidential election. The driving force behind a ban is the recognition that black people usually smoke menthols, and they are considered harder to quit due to their taste, which does not have the same “harsh” flavor as regular cigarettes, thereby making them easier to smoke.
Menthol cigarettes are already banned in Europe following legislation in 2020. Political leaders there said that menthol or any other flavors “mask the taste and smell” of tobacco and are therefore misleading to consumers. European research also noted that young people are more likely to smoke flavored cigarettes and that these can be more harmful to the cardiovascular system.
In America, the FDA promised a final ban proposal last August, but this was pushed forward to March 2024. Senator Cotton suggested that any final proposal should be constructed with input from the Justice Department and take into account any potential impact on the black market. The underground cigarette market in the US reportedly costs billions in taxes every year.
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