Biden Abandons Menthol Cigarette Ban To Avoid Angering Black Voters

On Friday, the Biden administration announced that it would be effectively abandoning its efforts to ban menthol cigarettes — a decision made reportedly because of concern that it could affect President Joe Biden’s ability to court Black voters.

Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimated that there were roughly 18.5 million menthol cigarette smokers aged 12 and up in the U.S. in 2018, noting that there were “particularly high rates of use by youth, young adults, and African Americans and other racial and ethnic groups.”

The FDA reportedly announced in April 2022 that it would be adding the mint-flavored cigarettes to its list of flavors to ban in the near future — sending a list of proposed rules to the Biden administration to review after a study of the issue in October 2023. The FDA ultimately set a deadline of March 2024 for the administration to take action against the popular cigarettes. This action followed a massive ban on all other cigarette flavors implemented in 2009.

However, the Biden administration has announced that there would be an indefinite delay on the menthol ban, arguing that the decision was made because there needed to be more conversations about the issue — though many believe that the real reason behind the flip-flop is concern for Biden’s decreasing popularity among Black voters.

In a statement about the delay, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra explained that there had been a lot of “attention” from the public surrounding the menthol ban, especially from “civil rights” activists, which has prompted the administration to take a step back.

“This rule has garnered historic attention and the public comment period has yielded an immense amount of feedback, including from various elements of the civil rights and criminal justice movement,” Becerra wrote in the statement. “It’s clear that there are still more conversations to have, and that will take significantly more time.”

There are many outspoken opponents of the ban within the Black community, including leaders who argue that a menthol ban would expand the illicit market for cigarettes in the community and cause increased racial profiling of Black people.

Many analysts have predicted that a menthol ban would harm Biden’s chances at reelection.

“Black voters overwhelmingly backed Joe Biden in 2020, but polls show they aren’t nearly as excited to back him in 2024,” a national Republican strategist told the Daily Caller. “The data shows menthol cigarettes are overwhelmingly preferred by Black smokers, so some may perceive this ban as an unfair attack on them. At a time when polls show Biden is in an incredibly tight race, I’m surprised he would risk upsetting such a key constituency by banning menthol cigarettes.”

Meanwhile, data shows that smoking cigarettes is the biggest preventable cause of death for Americans, as the CDC has reported that nearly half a million people die from illnesses related to smoking, while over 41,000 people die from issues related to second-hand smoke per year.