Friday, April 19, 2024

Law Enforcement Ponders How to Enforce Menthol Cigarette Ban

A study analyzing Massachusetts’ menthol ban found there were some increases in cross-border sales of menthols, although they weren’t statistically significant. (Adobe Stock)

MEDFORD, Mass. — The Food and Drug Administration will be releasing guidance on its proposed menthol cigarette ban by month’s end. In Virginia, these cigarettes make up 45% of the state’s menthol cigarette market.

Several states — including California, New York and Rhode Island — have implemented menthol bans in recent years. As beneficial as this move may be for people’s health, law enforcement officials aren’t as celebratory.

Diane Goldstein, executive director of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership, said the only kind of ban that would work is no ban at all.

“I don’t care if it’s a tobacco product, a caffeine product, an alcohol product, or the unregulated illicit market that we currently have,” she said. “People are always going to find a way to get the drugs that they want.”

She noted that enforcing such a ban could be problematic for already disenfranchised communities. The FDA has said its new proposal won’t penalize individual smokers — rather, it will penalize distributors. The hope is the ban will improve health across the state and the nation, especially as Virginia ranked poorly in the American Lung Association’s 2023 State of Tobacco Control Report.

Goldstein said she feels there should be additional studies done before the proposed rules are finalized to ensure that disenfranchised communities with higher smoking rates won’t be so harshly affected. She described the kind of approach she’d want to see taken as part of a ban.

“You have policies that have been in place for years, that include, we need more harm-reduction in the state products for adults,” she said. “We need more education, we need better cessation support, we need better youth tobacco prevention.”

An analysis of several studies by Quit Now Virginia found that 25% to 64% of adult smokers would quit if menthol cigarettes were banned in the United States.

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