Drug War

D.C. Council's Ban on Flavored Tobacco Products Is a License for More Over-Policing of Minorities

Legislators cannot have it both ways.

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The D.C. Council on Wednesday voted to ban flavored e-cigarettes, menthol cigarettes, and flavored cigars, ratcheting up the drug war as they create another black market in the District of Columbia.

This tobacco ban follows Washington, D.C.'s legalization of recreational marijuana and the quasi-decriminalization of psychedelics. Notably, those latter two policies were approved by voter ballot initiatives and were not passed by the D.C. Council.

While the D.C. Democratic Party largely supported those measures, many of its most powerful members do not see fit to apply those principles to tobacco use. Every member of the Council is a Democrat, with the exception of two at-large councilmembers, who are Independents. The new tobacco prohibition bill passed 9–3.

The vote follows hot on the heels of a viral incident this past weekend in Ocean City, Maryland, where police officers were seen tasing and beating teens after confronting them for violating an anti-vaping ordinance. The videos served as a reminder of why ending the drug war is so important: The government enforces every law at gunpoint, even those intended to "protect" our health. Readers may recall that Eric Garner was choked and killed by former New York City Police officer Daniel Pantaleo in 2014 for selling loose cigarettes.

Yet these tobacco proposals are marketed as helping people like Garner, who was black. The FDA "agrees to ban menthol to protect African Americans," reads a headline from The American Medical Association. Between 77–88 percent of black smokers opt for menthol. Yet there is no way to "protect" them from menthol without putting them at the mercy of police officers.

D.C.'s bill officially gives enforcement jurisdiction to the District's Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. But as the local radio station WTOP points out, the police department "normally take[s] enforcement upon itself to make sure the law is followed."

The ongoing battle over tobacco regulation is a microcosm of the incoherency of the progressive public health movement: Activists and politicians decry over-policing, particularly when it comes to minority communities, then advocate for and pass laws that lead to over-policing of minority communities.

Not everyone on the council was convinced. "What we have seen, generally, is where there are prohibitions, there are problems that come with it, and that is what I see here," said Chairman Phil Mendelson. "I can illustrate it this way: We as a council made it increasingly easier to smoke marijuana, but increasingly more difficult to smoke tobacco. There is a contradiction there, and I don't support that contradiction."

He added that "there are other approaches that can promote the public health." He is correct, but D.C.'s bill also bans some of those options. Data have consistently shown that e-cigarettes help people stop smoking cigarettes, but they, too, have become a target for legislators across the country. The (unsurprising) conclusion: Cigarette usage has increased following flavored tobacco bans.

Some tobacco control advocates will continue to attempt the well-intentioned balancing act. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids was one of the loudest groups to condemn what happened in Ocean City last weekend: "There is absolutely no place for violence and abuse in enforcing tobacco laws," they wrote on Monday. "Our communities cannot be safe and healthy when police often choose to enforce these laws with violence, often disproportionately against Black and Brown people."

The D.C. Council just passed a type of law that the Campaign fights for nationwide. I assume they consider it a success. But if violently enforcing laws is a dealbreaker for such groups, then perhaps they should reconsider supporting them in the first place.

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  1. Defunding the police isn’t going to solve the problem of over-criminalization by the city council, so I guess you know what we gotta do next.

    1. Hire more social workers?

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    2. Defund the city council?

    3. Bring in the national guard?

    4. Defund the “police”
      Instead, fund the “communal unity task force”. We can give them uniforms and badges, and of course they’ll need handcuffs and guns in case people don’t agree with communal unity.

      1. One of our mayoral candidates that support defund the police has been caught with private security. Funny since progressives talk poorly about privatizing.

    5. Take off and nuke the entire site from orbit?

  2. They’re banning the sale of these products within DC city limits? I believe there are going to be a lot of runs on VA tobacco retailers’ inventory of menthols.

    1. But don’t let em catch you with em in DC.

  3. Democrats can’t get past plantation mentality.

    It’s stupid how the CRT crowd is completely ignoring that the fact that the founder of the Democrat Party was a slaveholding jackass. Let’s put the whold 1619 on hold and focus on the fact that one of the two major political parties was founded on slavery itself. Yes it’s sad that hte GOP got infiltrated by a bunch of anti-segregationists in the 70s, but that’s no excuse of the continuing plantation politics of the Democrats.

  4. “Readers may recall that Eric Garner was choked and killed by former New York City Police officer Daniel Pantaleo in 2014 for selling loose cigarettes.”

    +++

    “Mostly because that’s the narrative the media pushed, even though it’s false. Which is ironic, since the truth is even worse.”

    1. Yep. He was not selling cigarettes and that’s not why the police were talking to him that day.

    2. Details, or better yet a cite.

  5. What most black americans who live in cities don’t seem to get is they voted for democrats and they still get treated badly.

  6. So people only use cigars, cigarettes and e- cigarettes because they are “flavored”?

    1. I use them for the nicotine. I like the flavors because I enjoy changing things up on occasion.

  7. To protect the health of our citizens, shouldn’t we also ban flavored candy, soda pop, ice cream, and popsicles?

  8. Who woulda ever thought that menthol was such a killer compound? Dr. Fauci, call your office.

  9. Are bubble gum cigars now considered “flavored” and thereby banned?

  10. “The FDA “agrees to ban menthol to protect African Americans,”” ( because we believe they are too stupid to have the freedom to decide for themselves.)

    1. What has the government done in the name of protecting African Americans that wasn’t later described as systemic racism?

      The 1986 crime bill that led to disparities in sentencing for crack cocaine was in part aimed to protect the American American communities from the crack.

      1. What has the government ever done in the name of protecting African Americans that hasn’t later turned out to be actually racist?

        FTFY.

        “The 1986 crime bill that led to disparities in sentencing for crack cocaine was in part aimed to protect the American American communities from the crack.”

        That’s how it was sold to the public. That may have little or nothing at all to do with the intent of the legislators who pushed the bill.

  11. with the exception of two at-large councilmembers, who are Independents.

    I live in a very ‘blue’ city, would you like a short or long definition of what “independent” usually means?

    1. “Too left for even the democrats”?

    2. Independently wealthy?

    3. Bernie Sanders.

    4. Bat shit crazy?

  12. When the enforcement of this goes badly, and it will, the progressives will not contemplate their mistakes. They will lament the toxic effects of systemic racism and White Supremacy doing disparate harm to black communities.

    1. Fault and blame must be deflected and redirected. That’s how politicians roll.

  13. Does the law exclude white people from the ban? If not your headline is bullshit wokeism.

    1. Supposedly, black smokers prefer menthol cigs at a much greater rate than other demographics. The idea behind this push to ban menthols specifically is to protect blacks from the nefarious designs of Big Tobacco.

    2. It’s not always about you

  14. It’s actually quite easy to have it both ways. Don’t make possession and use legal, but make the sale from a retail establishment illegal. No one on the street should be hassled for selling them or using them so don’t give any avenue for police to use it as probable cause for further harassment. The enforcement mechanism for businesses could look like the method used to ensure businesses check IDs. Suggesting banning flavored tobacco automatically has to include law enforcement busting people for having some Newports is a strawman.

    1. Yeah that doesn’t work. Since the demand is still there you still get an unregulated black market. A lot of the sellers will be minorities, too. Gangs will still get involved to profit off distribution and increase violence in the community. Prohibition never works.

  15. Dear DC council, thank you for the extra cigarette sales. It was awesome when you raised your tax to $5/pack but this is really going above and beyond the call of duty. Keep up the good work!

    Love,

    Virginia

    PS- even though we are ruled by fellow progtards, even they are not retarded enough to do something like this.

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