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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."

Go deeper

Biden administration to announce ban on menthol cigarettes

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Biden administration is expected to announce a proposed ban on menthol cigarettes this week, the Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: Tobacco opponents and civil rights groups have said the industry disproportionately targets and hurts Black communities. Tobacco use remains a contributor to the leading causes of illness and death, especially among people of color.

Apr 29, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden: "We have all seen the knee of injustice on the neck of Black Americans"

President Biden in a joint address to Congress on Wednesday urged the Senate to pass a policing bill named for George Floyd, the Black man whose murder in Minneapolis last year led to nationwide protests against police brutality.

What he's saying: "We have all seen the knee of injustice on the neck of Black Americans," Biden said. "Now is our opportunity to make real progress."

Ben Geman, author of Generate
8 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Key clean power provision likely won't survive in Dems' spending bill

A construction worker walks along a dirt road at the Avangrid Renewables La Joya wind farm in Encino, New Mexico, on Aug. 5, 2020. Photo: Cate Dingley/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A pillar of Democrats' plans to speed deployment of zero-carbon electricity is likely to be cut from major spending and tax legislation they are struggling to move on a party-line vote, per multiple reports and a Capitol Hill aide.

Driving the news: The New York Times, citing anonymous congressional aides and lobbyists, reports that West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) has told the White House he "strongly opposes" the Clean Electricity Performance Program.