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AFP supports coalition’s call to reject overcriminalization

Feb 27, 2020 by David Barnes

A coalition of civil liberty and criminal justice reform organizations is asking Congress not to impose a blanket prohibition on flavored tobacco products, saying such legislation would prioritize criminalization over public health concerns and result in dangerous – and unconstitutional – interactions with law enforcement. Americans for Prosperity is proud to stand alongside the American Civil Liberties Union and a half-dozen other groups in making the case that a prohibition on all menthol and flavored tobacco products would be counterproductive.

“Harm reduction, including education and counseling,” the coalition writes in a letter to Rep. Frank Pallone, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, “are what work to reduce usage and harm in our society, not prohibition.”

History tells us that prohibitions tend to achieve little except to criminalize widely practiced behaviors while failing to stop the behaviors themselves.

The kind of broad prohibition being contemplated would disproportionately criminalize more vulnerable communities and it wouldn’t achieve its goal.

At a time when tobacco use is already declining – including among the young – effective persuasion is a better route than the threat of fines or jail.

Being smarter on crime means not criminalizing activities that can be addressed without needlessly setting up more confrontations that can result in tragic consequences.

Congress should reject a blanket ban and find other ways to address the laudable goal of protecting public health.