Back to news

A Menthol Cigarette Ban to Create New Opportunities for Gang and Organized Crime

August 17, 2020

Prepared by the
National Board of Directors of the
Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association

A Menthol Cigarette Ban to Create New Opportunities for Gang and Organized Crime

(Washington, DC) The UK, EU, Canada, several other countries and several US states have banned the sale of menthol cigarettes. Under the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned flavored in cigarettes, citing their appeal to youth and young adults. Although initially exempt, the FDA has recently announced its intention to also ban menthol in cigarettes in the hopes that this ban will lower the number of smokers.

California and several other states are presently considering a statewide ban on the sale of menthol cigarettes.

The unintended consequence of this legislative action, to ban the sale of menthol cigarettes, is the creation of a black market for these products. Violent street gangs already make millions of dollars in dealing illegal cigarettes alongside drugs and guns. Adding banned menthol cigarettes to their inventories will be an easy task as these items are readily available in neighboring states.

As such, organized criminal elements that will purchase or steal banned menthol cigarettes from neighboring states or communities and then re-sell them, as contraband will circumvent the health intension of the ban, to include curbing youth smokers.

Massachusetts has recently became the first state in the country to ban menthol cigarettes and the cross-border trafficking began immediately. Despite the statewide ban, the menthol cigarettes are being sold, trafficking related violence continues and the states are losing the tax revenue.

In 2018, the City of San Francisco banned menthol cigarettes and evidence of related violence began immediately. Within six months armed robberies of smoke shops and convenience stores in nearby Fresco spiked.

Despite the intended health concerns, the creation of a new black market opportunity will have negative consequences within our communities. With plans underway to sharply reduce police agency funding the ability of our local and state law enforcement agencies to effectively police this issue will be negated.

HAPCOA recommends that government bodies considering banning menthol cigarettes please consult with your municipal, county and state law enforcement leaders for information of how this action will affect your community policing efforts. Failure to effectively fund the policing efforts required to support this health related action might place our police officers and our communities in danger.

About HAPCOA: The Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association (HAPCOA) is a non-profit membership organization established in 1973. It is the oldest and largest association in the U.S. of Hispanic American command officers from law enforcement and criminal justice agencies at the municipal, county, state, university, and federal levels.

As a non-partisan, 501(c) 3 non-profit organization, HAPCOA does not, and cannot, endorse or support candidates for political office.

Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association
PO Box 29626
Washington, DC 20017

Recent Articles

Chief Paul Chapa of the Trinity University Police Department was proud to announce that theyRead More


HAPCOA Executive Director Tony Chapa and Immediate Past National President Don Tijerina attended the ProfessionalizingRead More


HAPCOA Immediate Past National President Don Tijerina attended the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) CriminalRead More