President Barack Obama delivers the State of Union address before a joint session of Congress in the House chamber Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Larry Downing, Pool)
On Friday, House Democrats went Full Racism.
At least, that’s the word from the ACLU.
Dems passed new tobacco regulations which — days before — were slammed by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups for working to “further engrain systemic criminalization and racism.”
The bill — H.R. 2339, otherwise known as the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2019 — smoked through the lower chamber along near-perfect party lines.
Only 5 Republicans supported it, and just 17 Dems thought it stunk.
The expressed intention of the legislation is to curb teen nicotine consumption, which has spiked thanks to vaping.
The bill prohibits the sale of any cigarettes, vapes, or other tobacco items that are flavored at all.
That includes menthol.
You know — that cool, cool refreshment:
Alright — I know you want more, so here ya go:
Back to racist nicotine, according to the Washington Free Beacon, seven liberal advocacy groups — including the National Action Network and the ACLU — sent a letter Monday to bill author Frank Pallone (N.J.) conveying the following:
[W]e have concerns that a blanket prohibition on menthol and other flavored tobacco products, which will apply to adults, will (1) disproportionately impact people and communities of color; (2) trigger criminal penalties, prioritizing criminalization over public health and harm reduction; and (3) instigate unconstitutional policing and other negative interactions with local law enforcement.
As per the letter, 80% of black people and 35% of Hispanics prefer the taste of menthol with their smokes.
Thus, any ban on menthol cigarettes will disproportionately affect people of color.
On top of that, it seems, non-whites enjoy the taste of flavor.
Similarly, enforcement of a ban on flavored cigars will also disproportionally impact people of color given cigar preferences. Black adults are 60% of cigarillo and non-premium cigar smokers, with these products often flavored. Additionally, at Committee markup, H.R. 2339 was amended to exempt certain traditional, expensive cigars from a prohibition of online tobacco sales. There is no justification for differentiating a La Palina from a Black and Mild. Making this distinction undermines the public health arguments made for this bill and suggests that some tobacco preferences, within certain communities, will be prioritized and protected over others.
So take those notions, fast-forward through — I guess — lots of people finding a way around the laws, and you have what the protesting groups call an increase in “criminal penalties over public health.”
With a criminal legal system that incarcerates Blacks at nearly six times the rate of white Americans and a prison population that is 67 percent Black and Latinx, any prohibition on menthol and flavored tobacco products promises continued over-criminalization and mass incarceration of people of color. A ban on menthol and flavored tobacco products could reintroduce many of the harms imposed by the failed war on drugs as lawmakers work to legalize cannabis and take a public health approach to opioids. A bill criminalizing tobacco is contrary to those efforts.
To do it right, you’ve gotta consider stuff:
Righting the wrongs of earlier failed drug policy requires consideration of the unintended consequences of well-intentioned policies, especially on the most vulnerable communities. It also requires us to remember that harm reduction, including education and counseling, are what work to reduce usage and harm in our society, not prohibition.
But did Democrats listen?
They put their stamp on the bill like it was goin’ outta style.
So are they all systemic rascals?
Well, proof’s in the putting.
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