The Best Intentions

The saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions echos in my mind when I consider that many cities are considering a ban on menthol cigarettes. Let me pause and state clearly that I think cigarette smoking is a deplorable, expensive and disgusting habit. Having to squint ones eyes to keep the smoke out while indulging in that dangerous fixation seems more of a burden than a pleasure. But that’s my opinion, un-pause. This post will in no way be in support of cigarette smoking, especially the targeting of minors by big tobacco companies.

Cities across this country are now considering banning menthol flavoring in cigarettes. To be clear, the sale of menthol flavored cigarettes would become illegal, and is currently illegal in some cities. The purpose of banning menthol cigarettes is because of the highly addictive properties associated with the menthol additive. Considering that there seems to be a spike in the use of nicotine products by young people, I think the FDA and cities are right to take some type of action to resolve the situation.

The targeting of menthol cigarettes may present more of problem, specifically in terms of how it will affect the already strained relationship between the African-American community and police. The potential for problems has been laid out by experts here and here. I’m not one to cry wolf or believe that every action taken by the government is a direct target of the African-American community. As an FYI, Canada and the United Kingdom are also considering banning menthol cigarettes. However, we must consider the current climate and ask the question, as the article points out, will this ban have unintended consequences. I believe every measure should be taken to ensure that fair and equitable treatment be given when considering a ban on any substance. Given the past history of targeting some substances, i.e. prohibition of liquor and the war on drugs, we know that some people will go through great lengths in order to get what they want.

What should happen or what steps should be taken to resolve the issue and maintain a healthy relationship with the community? Glad you asked. The possession of the menthol products should not be criminalized. Will that mean that since the sale of menthol cigarettes will be illegal, any officer who comes in contact with someone in possession of menthol will apply some “pressure” in order to find out where the wares are sold? Most likely. This is the problem in which experts and I agree. The possible friction that could grow over cigarettes is more fuel for the powder keg. Second, place more efforts behind education and prevention. We know prevention education works in the short-term and long run. We need reasonable responses to a growing threat without criminalizing and exacerbating the problem.

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