A new Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rule aimed at protecting black Americans could backfire in a big way on President Joe Biden.
The FDA sent the final draft of a ban on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars to the White House last week, the last regulatory step in a process that began in April 2022. Menthol cigarettes disproportionately harm black Americans and ban could save scores of lives within that demographic, health experts contend. Between 1980 and 2018, 40 percent of excess deaths due to menthol cigarette smoking were black Americans, and black Americans smoke menthols at nearly triple the rate of whites, according to the FDA.
Healthy or not, moving forward with the rule could cost Biden a number of black votes in the 2024 presidential election, retired law enforcement professionals and GOP strategists told the Daily Caller. Some even wondered why the administration would consider such a proposal at a time where Republican frontrunner Donald Trump is surging in polls and Biden’s approval rating is slumping.
“The ban could potentially create political problems for Biden,” Mark R. Weaver, a GOP consultant, told the Daily Caller. “Black voters are the strongest constituency of the Democrat Party, with black women being more loyal to Democrats than black men. The studies I’ve seen suggest that, among those in the black community who smoke, specifically menthol cigarettes, it skews heavily towards men. So to the extent that black men have been less loyal to the Democrats than black women, any issue that affects them more specifically could cause them to be less enthusiastic about Joe Biden’s reelection.”
In the 2020 presidential election, black voters backed Biden 92% to 8%, according to Pew Research Center. But ahead of the 2024 election, the voter base isn’t as excited about Biden — as of May, just 58% of black adults approved of the president, compared to a rate of nine in ten when he first entered office, according to the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
PSAKI: Banning menthol cigarettes will “significantly reduce tobacco-related health disparities.” pic.twitter.com/iQY32u7wbp
— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) April 28, 2022
When the rule was first introduced in April 2022, polling reported by the Washington Free Beacon showed that the ban was widely unpopular in crucial swing states such as Georgia, North Carolina and Nevada.
“Black voters overwhelmingly backed Joe Biden in 2020, but polls show they aren’t nearly as excited to back him in 2024,” a national Republican strategist told the Daily Caller. “The data shows menthol cigarettes are overwhelmingly preferred by Black smokers, so some may perceive this ban as an unfair attack on them. At a time when polls show Biden is in an incredibly tight race, I’m surprised he would risk upsetting such a key constituency by banning menthol cigarettes.”
Prior to introducing the ban, acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock noted in 2021 that such a rule would “address health disparities experienced by communities of color, low-income populations and LGBTQ+ individuals, all of whom are far more likely to use these tobacco products.” The Biden administration’s initial proposal of the ban used euphemisms to indicate it was pushing to level health outcomes between racial groups, noting that such a rule would “reduce tobacco-related health disparities and advance health equity.”
Instantly, the proposal divided leaders in the black community, some of whom called the rule racist. Rev. Al Sharpton argued that a ban would have “unintended consequences” and would give law enforcement another reason to target black Americans. Democratic Virginia Rep. Donald McEachin said the ban would “disproportionately impact African-Americans” while having “economic and criminal justice implications.”
While voicing similar concerns that the ban could increase crime and incarceration rates, Maj. Neill Franklin, a retired law enforcement veteran of the Maryland State Police and Baltimore Police Department, told the Daily Caller that the policy is not popular among black adults and the move could cause Biden to lose some of the community’s support due to a feel they’re being patronized.
“The black community and the Latino community, I think [the Biden-Harris campaign] runs the risk of losing votes from there because I think primarily what it is, is a similar scenario to the 1980s crime bill, and that just not paying attention to what can potentially happen,” Franklin told the Daily Caller.
“These are adults, black adults, that are not happy with this policy. Why are you taking their ability away from them to use menthol cigarettes? It’s clear that this is focused upon the black community and these are adults who know the dangers of smoking, but yet, why is the government trying to be their parent?”
Deputy Chief Wayne Harris, a retired law enforcement veteran of the Rochester Police Department, added that the ban would be a “very, very significant” change for the black community and if it is associated with a political party or move, it could have political consequences. (RELATED: Biden’s Approval Rating Among Dems Plummets 11 Points To Lowest Of His Presidency)
Political operatives are prepared to run ads attacking Biden for the ban if he goes through with it, Fox News reported. The ban, some politicians told the outlet, is “riddled with contradictions and misplaced priorities” while also punishing adults who can make decisions for themselves.
“This administration is split down the middle on a bunch of different things,” Mike McKenna, GOP consultant and MWR Strategies president, told the Daily Caller. “Some people are probably thinking ‘hey, let’s do it while all this mayhem is going on.’ But I’m sure the political guys are like, ‘why would we throw an extra brick on this wagon? Things are creaking already.’ You’re talking about a sitting president who’s sitting at like what 40-38% favorability?”
The FDA and the White House did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller’s request for comment.