Congressmen Write White House to Oppose Menthol Ban

New rule would ‘disproportionally harm our nation’s small businesses,’ letter says
White House
Photograph: Shutterstock

Two U.S. representatives sent a letter to the White House to voice their concerns on how the proposed menthol cigarette ban would harm small businesses, like convenience stores.

U.S. Reps. Roger Williams (R-Texas) and Dan Meuser (R-Pennsylvania) sent the letter Thursday on behalf of the House Committee on Small Business to Shalanda Young, director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and Richard Revesz, administrator in the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA).  

The Food and Drug Administration in April 2022 proposed rules that would ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, and the agency in October submitted the rules to the Office of Management and Budget for final review. If approved, it would still take at least a year for the bans to take effect.

“Unfortunately, the Biden administration has proposed another rule that would disproportionally harm our nation’s small businesses,” said Williams, who is the chairman of the House Committee on Small Business. “Banning menthol cigarettes would result in an estimated loss of $2 billion dollars in sales at convenience stores across the country and would simply create a black market for these products. It is my hope that Director Young and Administrator Revesz reject this rule and allow small business to operate without government interference.”

The letter cited data from the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), which also sent a letter opposing the ban to the White House, that said this rule would cause a single c-store to lose $72,285 a year in non-tobacco sundry sales, on top of the nearly $160,107 loss due to the reduction in sales of tobacco products.

But industries beyond c-stores would also suffer, the letter said. Menthol makes up 37% of all retail cigarette sales in the country, according to the letter.  

“While the FDA anticipates that consumers of menthol cigarettes would simply pivot to regular cigarettes and retailers would retain revenue, this unsubstantiated claim does not rectify the impact on small manufacturers who would have their revenue stream from menthol cigarettes completely wiped out,” Williams and Meuser said in the letter. “While well-intentioned, the FDA’s ban of menthol cigarettes will deliver a significant blow to the small businesses in this country and will not be successful in eradicating menthol cigarettes from the United States.”

Banning menthol would also incentivize the illicit tobacco market, the letter said.

The congressmen asked the OMB and OIRA for several documents with information including how many small businesses it estimates will be forced to closed because of the proposed rule, what its estimate on reduced employment figures associated with these small businesses closures is and whether the offices had consulted with other agencies who oversee criminal activity in the country, among other items.

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