Economic research and history from the drug war suggest that banning an addictive product with high demand and few substitute goods will shift supply to the illicit market and that efforts to enforce a ban on such a product will lead to violence.
Multiple laws across states and the federal government criminalize illicit tobacco sales, meaning any attempt to reduce the criminal justice consequences of a ban must address these preexisting statutes.
Given that black smokers disproportionately smoke menthol products and that illicit dealers typically sell to members of their own race, a ban could exacerbate racial tensions with law enforcement if illicit sales are concentrated in black communities.
Plenty of alternative policies exist, but ‘…An outright ban of menthol cigarettes combined with a ban on flavored vape products, particularly menthol or mint flavors, would be the most harmful criminal justice policy, as it would most likely lead to an illicit market and criminal sanctions for a low-level crime.'”
Press release: Rethinking Flavored Tobacco Bans and Black Markets
Image credit: FOTOGRIN
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