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Biden menthol ban could allow Mexican cartels to sell cigarettes illegally, ex-officials warn

By Jake Beardslee · November 6, 2023

In brief…

  • Officials say administration failed to consult law enforcement before proposing ban
  • Sen. Cotton blasts policy as targeting "political enemies," not public safety
  • Industry groups campaigning hard against ban, citing growth of black markets
The Biden administration's proposed menthol cigarette ban is facing backlash from former law enforcement officials and industry groups who argue it will fuel black markets and organized crime rather than improve public health.  Drivera90/Wikimedia

According to former law enforcement officials, the Biden administration’s proposed ban on menthol cigarettes will open the door to serious problems, including providing an opportunity for Mexican drug cartels to move in and sell them illegally in the U.S.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed rules in April 2022 to prohibit menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said at the time that the action would “help prevent children from becoming the next generation of smokers and help adult smokers quit.” He also called it an “important step to advance health equity.”

However, ex-officials told Fox News Digital that the ban will create issues the administration failed to consider. “This is essentially a prohibition, and we know what happens when you remove a current market,” said Jorge Colina, former Miami police chief. “That means organized crime and/or cartels move in.”

Pete Forcelli, a former ATF agent, agreed, telling Fox News: “With any sort of ban, you open up opportunities for organized crime, for drug cartels, and truthfully - given the nature of what’s going on now - even folks funding terrorist activities in the Middle East to profit from that black market.”

Pat Montuore, a retired police chief, said to Fox the ban could endanger officers: “You put yourself in positions that you can’t win, and you also put our officers in harm’s way.” All three said law enforcement should have been consulted.

Sen. Tom Cotton opposes the ban, saying the administration is “less interested in public safety than targeting political enemies.” Industry groups are also campaigning against it, warning of growth in illicit markets.