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FDA Ban – Say Bye-Bye to Menthol Cigarettes

The nanny state reigns supreme.

On Thursday, April 4, the Food and Drug Administration took a crucial step forward in the war on menthol cigarettes by announcing a new ban on sales in the US. It is a battle that has been waged against flavored smokes since 2009, when the FDA stopped the sales of all flavored tobacco products except the popular menthols. But the anti-menthol folks couldn’t let it drop, and now the FDA intends to forbid the sale of menthol cigarettes because their “sensory effects increase appeal and make menthol cigarettes easier to use, particularly among youth and young adults.” Naturally, prohibiting people from doing what they like because, well, darn it, it’s good for them is a slippery slope.

It’s difficult to recollect where all this need to control the personal choices of Americans began, but without a doubt, it has grown and strengthened over time. It may be cold comfort that the United States lags behind the European Union when it comes to government bans. In 2020, the EU banned menthol cigarettes, and according to Christopher Snowdon of the Institute for Economic Affairs, who published a report titled the Nanny State Index, “there is little evidence that countries with more paternalistic policies enjoy greater health or longevity.” Snowdon also makes a compelling point about the ever-increasing power of the nanny state:

“Coercive nanny state policies create a number of problems and costs. ‘Sin taxes’ raise the cost of living and hurt the poor. High prices fuel the black market and lead to corruption. Advertising bans restrict competition and stifle innovation. Smoking bans cause serious damage to the hospitality industry. Excessive regulation creates excessive bureaucracy and drains police resources.”

However well-reasoned, these conclusions have not halted the effort to ban menthols in the US. It is a fact that women and blacks – who disproportionately smoke menthols – would experience the greatest impact. In a somewhat bizarre twist, Rev. Al Sharpton and his National Action Network are actively lobbying against the restriction. Sharpton contends it “would lead Black smokers to tamper with cigarettes or use unregulated herbal menthol varieties, which would ‘promote criminal activity,’” according to The New York Times.

Restricting Menthol Cigarettes

Thus far, the nanny state has restricted itself to removing accessibility to certain items and has not gotten to the place where forced use is mandated. But liberty advocates worry there may be a day when “eat your vegetables” won’t just be a request from your mother but rather a requirement from government authorities. If this sounds a bit ridiculous, that’s because it is – but when government rules intrude on personal decisions that do not negatively affect others, the question must be asked: Where does it stop?

Obesity is a serious chronic illness in the US. Should the FDA ban donuts, potato chips, or Big Macs? What about a food allowance? If you weigh X, you are only permitted to buy Y amounts of food. This isn’t as far-fetched as it may seem. Think soda tax, also known as the “sugary drinks portion cap rule.” In 2013 and ‘14, several cities tried to enact such a measure until the pushback caused the restriction to collapse.

Those on the left who can’t resist the urge to control everyone else continue to be a serious threat to liberty. Whether it’s menthol cigarettes or too much soda, citizens should be entitled to make poor choices. Perhaps it even shows them how to make better personal decisions in the future. The key word here is personal.

Still, the nanny state is ever present. Next on the list of prohibited items is sure to be menthol e-cigarettes, which the FDA has in its sights. The government agency has all e-cigs under review, and there will likely come a day in the not-too-distant future when electronic cigarettes will be another restricted item.

And so the nanny state continues to grow. But at least there are those in America who are aware of the dangers of such tyranny and are still willing to kick against the goads.

Read More From Leesa K. Donner

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