Apr 29, 2021 - Politics & Policy

ACLU invokes Eric Garner in opposition to Biden menthol cigarette ban

Three boxes of cigarettes

Packs of menthol cigarettes. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The ACLU is concerned that the Biden administration's nationwide ban on menthol cigarettes and other tobacco products would "foster an underground market" that would disproportionately harm people of color due to over-policing.

Why it matters: The group invoked the death of Eric Garner, who died when an officer held him in a chokehold after he allegedly sold cigarettes outside a convenience store, as well as George Floyd's death, who was killed by an officer kneeling on his neck after he tried to pay for a pack of cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill.

What they're saying: “At this pivotal moment, as the public demands an end to police violence erupting from minor offenses, we call on the Biden administration to rethink its approach and employ harm reduction strategies over a ban that will lead to criminalization," ACLU senior legislative counsel Aamra Ahmad said in a statement.

  • "As we approach the one-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd — only a few years removed from the killing of Eric Garner, a Black man killed by NYPD for selling loose, untaxed cigarettes — the racially disparate impact of the criminal legal system has captured the nation’s attention."
  • “Time and time again, we see encounters with police over minor offenses — for Daunte Wright it was expired tags, for George Floyd it was using a counterfeit bill, for Eric Garner it was selling loose cigarettes — result in a killing."
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