Conservative group unleashes 6-figure ad campaign targeting Biden’s menthol cigarette ban

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FIRST ON FOX: Conservative advocacy group Building Americas Future is launching a six-figure ad buy across multiple 2024 swing states and congressional districts over the Biden administration’s proposed menthol cigarette ban.

According to Building Americas Future’s ad campaign, the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) actions restricting menthol cigarette sales would jeopardize hundreds of millions of dollars in state revenue nationwide. Overall, a Tax Foundation analysis conducted in 2022 said the restriction would cost the federal government $1.9 billion and state governments a total of $4.7 billion, given the high tax rates on cigarettes.

‘Sadly, it appears the menthol‐​ban train has already left the station,’ Jeffrey Singer, a senior fellow at the free market Cato Institute, wrote in a report on Oct. 17. ‘This means more business opportunities for purveyors of black market products — ranging from illicit drugs to cigars and cigarettes. And if history teaches us anything, we can expect to witness many harmful unintended consequences.’

‘Prohibition fuels an underground market where peaceful, voluntary transactions become crimes. It gives law enforcement another reason to interact with non‐​violent people who commit these victimless crimes,’ Singer added in comments submitted to the FDA months earlier. ‘With menthol cigarettes more popular among Blacks and Hispanics, expect police to focus their attention on minority communities.’

The ad buy specifically targets New Hampshire, North Carolina, South Carolina, New Hampshire’s 5th congressional district, Colorado’s 8th congressional district, Pennslyvania’s 7th and 8th congressional districts, Ohio’s 13th congressional district and Connecticut’s 5th congressional district.

According to the Tax Foundation analysis from last year, swing states Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina and Ohio would see revenues decline by an estimated $123 million, $219 million, $165 million and $227 million, respectively.

The average pack of cigarettes in the U.S. faces $1.91 in state taxes and $1.01 in federal taxes. Additionally, every state continues to receive funds from the Master Settlement Agreement — a 1998 settlement between the states and nation’s four largest tobacco companies to resolve dozens of health-related lawsuits and reduce youth smoking — which, the Tax Foundation concluded, translates to about $0.75 per pack in 2022.

In April 2022, the FDA issued product standards to prohibit menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes and prohibit all characterizing flavors other than tobacco in cigars. The agency said the move would reduce disease and death from tobacco product use by reducing youth experimentation and addiction, and increasing the number of smokers that quit. 

‘The proposed rules would help prevent children from becoming the next generation of smokers and help adult smokers quit,’ Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said at the time. ‘Additionally, the proposed rules represent an important step to advance health equity by significantly reducing tobacco-related health disparities.’ 

Tobacco smoking remains the lead cause of preventable death nationwide, according to the FDA. In proposing the rules, the FDA cited its congressional authority to adopt tobacco product standards.

Last month, the FDA sent the proposed regulations to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review, a final step in finalizing and eventually implementing the menthol cigarette ban. Brian King, the director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, previously told Fox News Digital that the move means the proposal reached its ‘final step of review for regulatory documents.’

‘This administration would make criminals of law-abiding citizens while granting actual felons early release and encouraging illicit drug use,’ Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., told Fox News Digital on July 14. ‘No wonder Americans have lost faith in an administration that’s less interested in public safety than targeting political enemies.’

‘My general perspective would be that as adults, people can make their own choices, and what the government’s job to do is to ensure that we have a market that is open and that products are available that are regulated to make sure that everyone is safe,’ Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., added at the time. ‘At the federal level, I believe that it’s our job to kind of stay out of that and let states take their own action and manage their own choices.’

Additionally, groups representing small businesses like the New England Convenience Store & Energy Marketers Association have also criticized the proposal. 

However, proponents of the proposed actions said it could lead to reduced tobacco use and ensure positive health outcomes.

‘Once finalized, rules to end the sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars rule will be the most significant actions that the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products has taken in its 14-year history. The American Lung Association is eager for these lifesaving rules to be implemented and urges the White House to finalize these rules before the end of the year,’ American Lung Association CEO and President Harold Wimmer said last month.

‘The science and data are clear. Ending the sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars will save lives,’ Wimmer continued. ‘It will also help reduce the unjust disparities in tobacco use caused by the tobacco companies targeting certain communities with menthol cigarettes.’

On Tuesday, a group of 311 faith leaders sent a letter to President Biden, saying the FDA finalizing the regulations was a ‘moral imperative.’

The NAACP, 100 Black Men of America Inc., U.S. Conference of Mayors and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids have also signaled support for the FDA’s proposal.

The FDA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Fox News Digital’s Joe Schoffstall contributed to this report.

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