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Biden Delays Ban on Menthol Cigarettes

The Biden administration said on Friday that it was delaying a decision on whether to ban menthol cigarettes, effectively quashing a proposal that has divided Black American voters and fueled million-dollar lobbying campaigns from the tobacco industry in this presidential election year.

The White House has faced considerable resistance from the cigarette companies that would lose billions of dollars if they could no longer sell menthol cigarettes. Opponents took to the airwaves to warn of a spike in cartel traffic along the border from counterfeit cigarette smuggling and of police violence targeting Black residents if a ban were in force.

Those efforts posed risks for President Biden, whose support among Black voters has at times slipped in recent months.

Some of Mr. Biden’s top health officials have said that a ban would save lives and protect against lung cancer, which is a higher risk for Black smokers, who have historically favored menthol cigarettes and are heavily targeted by tobacco companies.

“This rule has garnered historic attention, and the public comment period has yielded an immense amount of feedback, including from various elements of the civil rights and criminal justice movement,” Xavier Becerra, the health and human services secretary, said in a statement. “It’s clear that there are still more conversations to have, and that will take significantly more time.”

The decision highlighted a debate among senior federal officials over how to weigh the political and legal consequences of a ban against public health.

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