The state of Maryland is seriously considering House Bill 134, which would institute a statewide ban on all kinds of flavored tobacco products.
If passed, the new law would make manufacturing, importing, selling and delivering everything from flavored cigars and menthol cigarettes to vapes akin to a misdemeanor drug offense with a potential 30 days behind bars and a $1,000 fine. The goal, of course, is to discourage tobacco use among younger people, who tend to be drawn toward trendy flavors.
What’s the problem? Well, critics say that the law will be ineffectual at best — and racist at worst.
Prohibition has a long history of failure in this country
Critics point out that the prohibition of illicit substances — whether it’s alcohol, marijuana, other drugs or tobacco — has never had any real success in the United States.
The moment that a widely used, sought-after product is made illegal, an underground market will spring up — and that will lead to more negative health consequences for users as they get unregulated and contaminated bootleg products. That’s also the best-case scenario.
However, a ban that aims to prohibit menthol-flavored tobacco products — which are often aggressively marketed to African American and Hispanic/Latino people — could further exacerbate inequities in a criminal justice system where African Americans are already arrested up to 10 times more often than whites.
Any kind of conviction for drug charges will brand you as an addict and a criminal. You don’t need that record following you around the rest of your life. If you’re facing charges, it’s wise to seek legal guidance to protect your rights.