How a Menthol Cigarette Ban Enriches Hamas – HotAir

Here’s a connection that many of us probably wouldn’t make out of the blue. What might a ban on menthol cigarettes like the one promoted by Joe Biden have to do with Hamas? It’s a connection that Senator Tom Cotton has made and he’s speaking up about it. He believes (correctly) that a ban on menthol cigarettes will immediately create a huge black market for the products. And if nobody else fills that void, tobacco pirates will step in to fill the role, funding groups like Hamas and Hezbollah in the process. This week he sent a letter to several federal agencies asking them what plans they have in place to combat the possibility of terrorist financing if such a ban takes effect. (Free Beacon)

The Biden administration’s bid to ban menthol cigarettes will open a lucrative black-market trade, bringing in millions of dollars for terrorist organizations, including Iran-backed groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, according to a Republican senator.

Since May 2022, the Biden administration has been championing a proposal that will eliminate menthol-flavored cigarettes from American stores. Around 40 percent of adult smokers prefer mentholated cigarettes, and they are particularly popular with black Americans, according to the American Lung Association.

With the menthol market still booming, the Food and Drug Administration’s efforts to enact an outright ban will likely create a massive black market for Mexican cartels and a host of terror groups known to work alongside them, such as al Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah, according to Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), who sent a letter on Monday to multiple federal agencies seeking information on how they plan to combat the potential for terrorism financing.

I’ve written about tobacco piracy here in the past. The subject comes up every time another ban on any sort of tobacco products is proposed or goes into effect. The pirates show up almost immediately, knowing that nicotine addicts will be scrambling to find a fix and that they’ll pay premium prices to do so. As long as tobacco is available anywhere, people will figure out a way to move it and profit from it.

But we’ve traditionally seen mostly local “talent” engaging in these practices. That’s because there’s never been a national ban. People were able to drive across state lines, load up a truck, and return. That sort of local black marketeering isn’t the sort of activity we would expect to see foreign terrorists getting involved with, except for possibly the Mexican cartels in the southwest.

But with a national ban, menthol cigarettes might have to be imported from other countries and then be smuggled over the border. America has traditionally been a major producer, but they are manufactured in Europe and Asia as well. That sort of trafficking would drive up both the risk and the cost. Would Iranian-backed terror groups get involved at that point? I wasn’t sure at first. It still seems a bit far afield for them. I could definitely see the Mexican cartels jumping on board because they’ll smuggle anything if there’s money to be made.

But with a bit more digging, I found out that it’s not only possible but it’s already happened. Back in 2013, a multi-agency law enforcement investigation in New York resulted in the breakup of a smuggling operation that was funneling money directly to Hezbollah and Hamas. It was run by a group of Palestinians. But even then they weren’t bringing the products in from overseas. They were smuggling them from lower-tax states and shipping them to New York. So it’s been established that those groups do have an interest in this type of criminal activity. If a national ban goes into effect, I’m sure they’ll find some other way around it.

Is it really wise to pursue this sort of ban? A lot of people currently smoking menthol cigarettes will just switch over to non-menthol brands even if they don’t enjoy them as much. And as we’ve already seen, a black market will crop up immediately, with tax revenue being diverted from the states to groups of smugglers. Unless you simply outlaw tobacco entirely, the problems that are supposedly being addressed are not going to go away. They will simply morph into something else. It all sounds like more trouble than it’s worth.

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