Small Operator Trade Groups Rally Against Proposed Menthol Ban

State and regional energy marketing trade associations raise concerns that prohibition will fuel the illicit market.
Melissa Kress
Executive Editor
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a pack of Menthol Cigarettes

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Trade associations representing small businesses are speaking out against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's move to ban menthol from cigarettes. 

On Oct. 31, 47 state and regional energy marketing trade associations joined together to oppose the proposed federal ban on menthol cigarettes. The opposition comes two weeks after the FDA sent a final product standard that would prohibit the use of menthol in cigarettes, roll-your-own tobacco and heated tobacco products to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for final review. 

The OMB reviews potential regulations to assess their economic impact — a necessary step before the FDA's rule can be implemented.

"Tobacco bans and taxes don't change consumer demand. These bad policies steal from hardworking American small businesses and fund violent crime. At a time when we are already struggling as a nation to police our international borders, a nationwide menthol ban will pour fuel on a raging fire," said Peter Brennan, the executive director of the New England Convenience Store & Energy Marketers Association.

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According to the groups, a menthol ban will contribute to illicit tobacco trafficking and drive legitimate tobacco transactions to the illicit market. They added there is no scientific evidence to support a nationwide public health policy that would treat menthol cigarettes differently than other cigarettes, and as menthol cigarettes are the product of choice for smokers in communities of color, the policy will disproportionately impact those communities.

If approved, the policy proposal will create the largest prohibition of a legal adult product in modern history, the groups added.

"History shows us that prohibition policies are doomed to failure and a nationwide menthol ban would be the biggest prohibition of the 21st century," said Peter Krueger, of Fueling Nevada. "How can our lawmakers push to legalize cannabis to remedy the harmful war on drugs while simultaneously seeking to criminalize menthol cigarettes? A menthol ban won't reduce consumer demand, but it will hurt small businesses while funding violent criminal enterprises and international smuggling syndicates."

Traci Nelson, president of the West Virginia Oil Marketers & Grocers Association, added that small businesses are already struggling against the headwinds of inflation and a flagging economy. "…The last thing the retailers of West Virginia need is policy that will take revenue out of our stores and give it to the criminal market. We deserve more than this from our elected officials, but they continue to kick us while we're down."

The groups, who are members of the Energy Marketers Association (EMA), urge the White House consider the broad consequences.

"Banning the use of menthol in cigarettes would have a cascading effect on companies who supply fuel to independently owned and operated small business gas stations. Retailers will likely be unable to pay for their next load of fuel and pay for EV charging equipment due to the potential major revenue loss from a menthol flavor ban. Many small businesses will likely go out of business given the magnitude of this proposed rulemaking," said Rob Underwood, president of EMA.