Biden Menthol Prohibition Turns Off Floating Voters

A proposed ban on menthol cigarettes might exacerbate President Joe Biden’s predicament as the midterms approach. 

Along with a troubled economy, immigration concerns, and inflation, the Biden administration’s ban on menthol cigarettes may affect Democratic candidates, according to a poll released of voters in three key states, Georgia, Nevada, and North Carolina. 


Data From Surveys

According to the poll, respondents in the three states reject banning menthol cigarettes by a margin of 50% to 52%, while supporting it by a margin of 28% to 31%. This fall, all three states will hold Senate elections. 

Independent voters and most Democrats support maintaining menthol’s legal status in each state. In Nevada, 54% of Hispanic voters concur. 

On April 29, 2021, the Food and Drug Administration said it would attempt to ban menthol cigarettes and all flavored cigarettes “within the next year.”

Officials are currently drafting a plan to prohibit menthols, which were previously exempt from a 2009 ban on flavored cigarettes. 

According to the FDA, the restriction will “address health inequities suffered by minority communities, low-income communities, and LGBTQ+ people.”

Approximately 85% of black smokers choose menthol cigarettes. 

Black leaders have spoken out in support of and opposition to the ban. The NAACP submitted a letter to Biden and federal officials expressing its support for the ban, but Al Sharpton’s National Action Network countered with its own letter. 

“It would expose people to deadly counterfeit cigarettes, expand teenage access to cigarettes, and facilitate criminal activity,” Sharpton writes.

“Additionally, a menthol prohibition will worsen already-simmering racial profiling, prejudice, and policing difficulties.” 


Critics note that Sharpton’s organization has received funding from Reynolds American, the producer of Newport cigarettes.

However, Richard Marianos, a Georgetown University lecturer and retired Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives official, shares his reservations. 

“If you outlaw menthol cigarettes, you will have to go out and arrest and harass individuals who sell them,” he explained. “It will significantly negatively impact police reform and neighborhood policing.” 

Marianos claimed it is not difficult to turn an unflavored smoke into a menthol cigarette, which will make it very difficult, if not unattainable, for police to enforce the prohibition, while establishing a new crime out of an item that has been permitted for decades. 

However, Clifford Douglas, head of the University of Michigan’s Nicotine Research Network, claimed the advantages exceed the hazards, particularly because the ban may help prevent young people from picking up tobacco in the first instance.

He is, however, amenable to leaving menthol flavors off the shelf in the case of electronic cigarettes. 

The voting public looks to be on Sharpton’s and Marianos’ sides.

According to the Echelon research, between 44% and 49% of respondents said they’d be less inclined to vote for a politician who supports a menthol ban, contrasted to between 21% and 25% who said they’d be more inclined to vote for a politician who supports the product’s prohibition. 

It is still yet to be seen if voters care enough about the subject to make a difference in terms of which candidate they support. 

“I believe even if the decision is unpopular, it will not be a campaign issue in the midterms,” Democratic analyst Brad Bannon predicted. “Voters are preoccupied with a variety of other issues.” 

Bannon believes the benefits far outweigh the hazards associated with black markets and enforcement concerns and cites the possibility of lifesaving as a reason for his support. 

However, with President Joe Biden already far behind in the polls, any move that erodes support for Democratic candidates might help ignite a November red wave.