DC Flavored Tobacco Ban Will Make Life Harder for Marginalized Groups

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The Council of the District of Columbia today voted to ban the sale of flavored tobacco, including menthol, a policy opposed by CEI and coalition groups. CEI Senior Fellow Michelle Minton warned that such a ban would not improve health outcomes but would put communities of color more at-risk.

Statement by Michelle Minton:

Bloomberg-funded groups applaud the District’s prohibition of flavored tobacco as an ‘historic’ move to protect youth from nicotine. In reality, it is history repeating itself. Like every other prohibition before it, banning menthol cigarettes and flavored e-cigarettes will not convince anyone to stop smoking but will very likely increase smoking, as San Francisco recently learned. People of color and marginalized groups are harmed most by policies that employ punitive measures over harm reduction. Also, the prohibition will spur a massive illicit market for menthol cigarettes and flavored vapes, which, since street dealers rarely check ID, will make it easier for youth to get their hands on these products.   

“If the DC Council truly cared about public health and respected adults who live in this city, it would have balanced concerns about youth nicotine use with the needs and welfare of adults. The Council managed this balanced approach with alcohol and cannabis, but rather than taking the balanced approach of allowing flavored tobacco sales at age-gated shops, the Council opted for prohibition. Protecting youth seems like a smokescreen for pressuring everyone to stop using nicotine, regardless of age, safety, and the consequences that always follow prohibition.”  

Related: Coalition letter opposing tobacco flavor ban