With the COVID-19 pandemic fading away, the World Health Organization (WHO) is returning to its core mission: making bogus, paternalistic attacks on tobacco users and producers.
To promote its World No Tobacco Day this year, WHO has been running a “grow food, not tobacco” campaign that mendaciously pins food insecurity on the global tobacco trade. “Tobacco is grown in over 124 countries, taking up 3.2 million hectares of fertile land that could be used to grow food,” reads a recent WHO report, which it says “compounds the food security issues” faced by low- and middle-income countries.
In addition to starving their countrymen, tobacco farmers are also keeping themselves trapped in poverty by growing a crop that offers little economic return, says the WHO report. Tobacco companies’ subsidization of seeds, fertilizers, financing, and more keeps farmers growing this toxic substance. A lack of government subsidies for alternative grows leaves them stuck in this grim business.
To drive home the point about tobacco’s ruinous impact, the WHO report and associated campaign material feature pictures of dead-eyed, malnourished children holding up food bowls filled with smoldering cigarette butts.
In November 2019, Massachusetts became the first state in the U.S. to ban the sale of all flavored tobacco and nicotine products, including flavored electronic cigarettes and menthol cigarettes. Four additional states have since imposed flavor bans on some products and similar policies are under consideration in many other jurisdictions. Such bans are popular among legislators and anti-smoking groups, but the latest data from Massachusetts highlight the ban’s unintended consequences. The state’s experiment in prohibition has led to thriving illicit markets, challenges for law enforcement, and prosecution of sellers.
Massachusetts’ Multi-Agency Illegal Tobacco Task Force publishes an annual report providing insight into how the state’s high taxes and flavor prohibitions affect the illicit market. As opponents of the flavor ban predicted, the law has incentivized black market sales of menthol cigarettes and flavored e-cigarettes (“ENDS,” or “electronic nicotine delivery systems,” in the parlance of regulators). “The Task Force identifies the cross-border smuggling of untaxed flavored ENDS products, cigars, and menthol cigarettes as the primary challenge for tobacco enforcement in the Commonwealth,” according to the report. “Inspectors and investigators are routinely encountering or seizing menthol cigarettes, originally purchased in surrounding states, and flavored ENDS products and cigars purchased from unlicensed distributors operating both within and outside the Commonwealth.”
The Massachusetts Department of Revenue reports conducting more than 300 seizures in FY 2022, compared to 170 in 2021 and just 10 in 2020. Many of these involve substantial amounts of products and missed tax revenue. For example, a single search warrant yielded “a large quantity of untaxed ENDS products, [other tobacco products], and Newport Menthol cigarettes affixed with New Hampshire excise tax stamps” representing an estimated $940,000 in unpaid excise taxes.
Revenue officials are seizing so many illicit products, in fact, that they are running out of room to store them. The “Task Force’s increased investigative and enforcement activities during the past year have led to the seizure of large quantities of illegal tobacco products, resulting in a strain on the Task Force’s storage capacity,” says the report. But fear not, they are working on leasing additional space “that will significantly increase storage capacity and allow for continued increased enforcement.”
A new Biden administration effort to regulate cigarettes will bankroll street gangs and bankrupt U.S. tobacco farmers, experts say.
The Food and Drug Administration is preparing this month to require lower nicotine content in all cigarettes—a move critics argue will wreck the $75 billion U.S. tobacco industry amid a global economic crisis and boost a black market as crime spikes nationwide. The news comes weeks after the agency announced its plans to ban menthol cigarettes, which will cost federal and local governments an estimated $6.6 billion in the first year alone.
Richard Marianos, a 27-year veteran of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, said these regulations will shift the demand for cigarettes toward unregulated tobacco grown internationally, which is then purchased and sold by drug dealers.
“The problem again with this administration is they do not take into consideration a totality of subject matter experts,” Marianos told the Washington Free Beacon. “I’ve never seen this much foolishness in my life.”
Marianos, who worked on gang violence at the ATF, said the black market for cigarettes is dominated by street gangs and would grow at least a hundredfold after the FDA implements its nicotine decision. He claims one of his former informants discovered some dealers make $5,000 selling cigarettes in a single afternoon. The FDA’s “uneducated and silly” cigarette plan, he said, would require law enforcement to focus on tobacco sales rather than drugs and violent crime.
The FDA’s cigarette regulations are a part of the Biden administration’s larger “harm reduction” strategy that enables illicit drug use while criminalizing tobacco. The Free Beacon reported in February that the Department of Health and Human Services was set to fund the distribution of crack pipes through a $30 million harm reduction program, which according to the New York Times sparked an “uproar” that “derailed” the agency’s entire drug policy.
As TFTP previously reported, currently, the nation is gripped with a historical unemployment problem, the feds are waging a new cold war with Russia, the country is on the brink of civil war, hundreds of thousands of people are still locked up for victimless crimes, the dollar is on the verge of collapse, we are nearly 30 trillion dollars in debt, and the Biden administration has set its crosshairs on outlawing menthol cigarettes.
The asinine decision to ban yet another product couldn’t have come at a more inopportune time given the current state of policing in the land of the free. This will only lead to more suffering, more senseless police interactions, and more persecution of black people. There are undoubtedly swarms of cops right now chomping at the bit to enforce a ban on menthol and flavored cigarettes — ready to “crack some skulls.”
The move is so poorly thought out that even the left-leaning American Civil Liberties Union warns that it could have grave consequences, especially for people of color.
If you don’t think the state will kidnap, cage, or even kill people over cigarette laws, you likely haven’t read many articles on the Free Thought Project.
On July 17, 2014, Eric Garner, father of six, had just broken up a fight outside of his shop when he was targeted by NYPD cops for harassment and extortion for selling loose cigarettes. Because the state will go to grave and violent lengths to enforce even the most arbitrary of laws, Garner was subsequently assaulted and killed by “compression of neck, chest and positioning during restraint by police” — over cigarettes.
Eric Garner sold “loosie” cigarettes. The state didn’t get their cut. So they killed him.
No one has been held responsible for Garner’s death as the state seemingly considers the violation of cigarette laws, an offense punishable by death.
In 2020 when the Democratic party nominated Joe Biden for president, the party had him sign onto the platform calling for decriminalizing and rescheduling marijuana through executive action. Included in this platform were the plans for legalization of medical marijuana and expunging the convictions of those who have been kidnapped and caged over this plant.
“Democrats believe no one should be in prison solely because they use drugs,” the platform stated. “Democrats will decriminalize marijuana use and reschedule it through executive action on the federal level.”
Biden himself also said he was going to “reschedule cannabis as a Schedule II drug so researchers can study its positive and negative impacts.”
At the time, TFTP predicted that none of this would happen and that Biden would not keep these promises. We were right.
Last month, some folks in the media started asking the Biden administration why the president hadn’t moved forward with marijuana reform. Their answer? Biden is too busy saving the country.
In an interview with The San Francisco Chronicle, police state advocate and champion of the drug war, who is also the Vice President, Kamala Harris said “we haven’t yet taken that on” despite the campaign promises to do so.
“Honestly, right now, we’ve been focused on getting people food, helping them stay in their apartments or in their homes, getting kids back to school, getting shots into arms,” she said. “That has been all-consuming.”
No one can argue that people are suffering right now and so this excuse almost sounds believable but in true hypocritical and outright laughable fashion, the Biden administration showed us that the “too busy” claim was an outright lie. Last week, while seemingly taking a break from saving starving children, Biden’s FDA announced their plan to ban menthol cigarettes.
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