published : 2023-11-06

Ex-law enforcement officials warn Biden's menthol cigarette ban could 'create a vacuum' for Mexican cartels

The proposed ban is in the 'final step of review for regulatory documents'

Ex-law enforcement officials discussing the potential impact of Biden's menthol cigarette ban, taken with a Nikon D850

Former law enforcement officials have sounded the alarm over the Biden administration's proposed ban on menthol cigarettes, warning that it could have unintended consequences and create an opportunity for Mexican cartels to thrive.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed rules prohibiting menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars in April 2022, with the aim of protecting children and benefiting adult smokers. However, ex-law enforcement officials argue that this ban could lead to a significant increase in black market sales, with cartels taking advantage of the lucrative industry.

One former City of Miami chief of police, Jorge Colina, pointed out that the ban would create a vacuum that cartels could exploit. He called it an 'unfunded mandate' that would provide an opening for organized crime. Colina emphasized the importance of including law enforcement in the decision-making process and expressed concern that the administration did not consider all the consequences and unintended consequences of the ban.

A Mexican cartel member holding a package of contraband cigarettes, taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Pete Forcelli, a retired Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) special agent, echoed Colina's concerns about the potential for cartels, organized criminal groups, and even terrorist organizations to profit from the black market that would be created by the ban. He questioned why the Biden administration did not consult with law enforcement before implementing such a policy.

Another retired police chief, Pat Montuore, highlighted the potential dangers for law enforcement officers as a result of the ban. He expressed concern about the lack of specific training and potential confusion regarding the enforcement of the law, while also drawing attention to the creation of illegal markets and the associated risks for both vendors and consumers.

Critics of the ban, including politicians like Senator Tom Cotton, argue that the Biden administration's policies are contradictory and misplaced. They suggest that the administration should focus more on public safety and addressing more pressing issues rather than targeting law-abiding citizens.

Law enforcement officers conducting a raid on an illicit black market operation, taken with a Sony Alpha a7 III

In addition to the concerns raised by law enforcement officials, there are worries that the ban could negatively impact small businesses and lead to an increase in illicit markets. Organizations like the New England Convenience Store & Energy Marketers Association have launched campaigns opposing the ban, citing the rise in contraband cigarette seizures in states where similar bans have been implemented.

As the proposed ban on menthol cigarettes moves closer to becoming a reality, its potential consequences are causing alarm among former law enforcement officials, politicians, and small business owners. The need for a comprehensive and well-informed approach to such regulations is emphasized, with calls for greater collaboration and consultation with those directly involved in law enforcement.