Letters to the Editor

Axne and Finkenauer should oppose criminalizing flavored tobacco

Prohibition didn’t work in the 1920s, so why do some lawmakers now want to try it with flavored traditional tobacco products? In the 1920s, bootleg alcohol harmed Americans and created black markets that required the full force of law enforcement to counter.

Iowa — and Congress — should strengthen laws for underage smoking, but criminalizing flavored tobacco would result in intense policing that would disproportionately target and penalize historically marginalized communities. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and local police departments would mobilize in underprivileged areas to stop and frisk, not for cocaine and narcotics that may harm the community, but for flavored tobacco.

Frankly, they could be doing better things with their time.

Like 1920s Prohibition, the intense police presence that criminalizing flavored tobacco requires could endanger the lives of those in the African-American community. A ban would naturally create illicit markets, but while whites sell cigarettes outside of sanctioned stores like anyone else, they aren’t prosecuted for it. Meanwhile, Eric Garner, an African-American man in New York, was choked to death by a police officer for selling cigarettes. And people in historically marginalized communities, who already face an unfair criminal justice system, should not be locked up in prison for flavored tobacco.

I hope our progressive U.S. representatives, Abby Finkenauer and Cindy Axne, oppose and speak out against criminalizing another product that would allow the Trump administration to target minority communities. Preventing underage smoking is a laudable goal, but criminalization for legal adults is a step backward.

Corey Halfhill

Waterloo

Owner, Central Iowa Vapor

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