White House press secretary Jen Psaki disputed allegations raised Thursday that President Joe Biden’s proposed ban on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars unfairly targets the black community.
PSAKI opened Thursday’s press briefing by touting new rules proposed by the Food and Drug Administration, which it said would help “enforce regulations around what stores sell and what companies manufacture and distribute, which is essential action to prevent children from becoming the next generation of smokers, help adult smokers quit, and significantly reduce tobacco-related health disparities.”
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Still, she faced a number of questions about opposition to the ban from some black activists, lawmakers and interest groups.
PSAKI claimed that the regulations would “absolutely not” define black smokers “because this rule would apply to manufacturers and sellers, not people who smoke menthol cigarettes, and it would save lives.”
She cited an NAACP statement on the subject about how “the tobacco industry has targeted African Americans and contributed to skyrocketing rates of heart disease, stroke, and cancer in our community”.
In a second exchange, Psaki denied that such regulations would “split” the black vote ahead of the midterm elections.
“This is a public health decision made by the FDA, and the intent was not to address politics or somehow manage politics, but to save lives. “, she said. “Studies estimate that with menthol cigarettes, if they are no longer available, it could prevent more than 650,000 deaths, including 238,000 African Americans.”
“There are also higher rates of use among children and young adults. Menthol also increases the appeal of cigarettes, makes them easier to use, especially for children, and what we’ve seen, as you know, it’s been decades of targeted marketing activities at the African American community to promote new purchases,” Psaki concluded. “What I think is important for everyone to know and understand, including understood by the opponents, is that it is not a question of targeting individuals. This is not about giving anyone the right to arrest someone who smokes a cigarette, a menthol cigarette. It’s going after the makers of It’s going after those who sell because we’ve seen decades of marketing activity targeted at exactly those communities.
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You can watch Thursday’s briefing in full below.