Dating back to the founding of our great nation, tobacco has long been an important crop in South Carolina. While regulation and demand has shifted over the last century, tobacco remains one of our state’s most profitable crops and provides thousands of well-paying jobs and accounts for billions in local and state economies.

In no area of our state is the tobacco industry more crucial for the livelihoods of farmers and their families than the Pee Dee. For generations, the profits from the sale of the tobacco crop have kept food on the table, sent children to college and helped countless families reach the American dream.

The livelihoods of these farmers and their families could soon be decimated if President Joe Biden and the Food and Drug Administration move forward with their proposed ban on menthol cigarettes.

In South Carolina, the menthol cigarette industry supports nearly 4,000 jobs and $900 million in revenue. These jobs, wages, and economic outputs are important to rural areas of our state that lack the large manufacturing and retail industries that are prevalent in other areas.

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The mom-and-pop retail stores that rely on tobacco sales to stay in business are often the only suppliers of basic essentials such as milk, bread and fuel in small towns. Taking these key products off their shelves will likely lead to them shuttering their doors and forcing families to travel even further from home.

Menthol tobacco sales and their corresponding taxes also provide much-needed funding in government revenue that goes to support tobacco related regulation, research and public health strategies that have proven successful in cessation and reducing the risks of smoking.

In addition to the negative economic impacts that Biden’s proposed menthol ban would bring, there are social consequences as well. As evidenced by the War on Drugs and Prohibition, federal bans on products simply do not work as consumers will seek out illicit alternatives that ultimately undermine our already strained criminal justice system and put money in the pockets of criminals and their enterprises.

A ban on menthol cigarettes will be no different. Gangs and the illicit market will take over and instead of revenue going into the pockets of South Carolinians and small businesses, money will go to support violence and gang activity that are already at alarming levels in many areas of our state.

Our men and women in blue simply do not have the capacity to track down traffickers of banned tobacco products. Forcing them to do so would divert resources and attention away from more pressing challenges in our communities.

South Carolina, like many other states, faces rising crime rates, homelessness, and opioid and fentanyl epidemics. Enforcing a ban would only strain relations with the communities our law enforcement is bound to serve.

As President Biden and his surrogates focus on South Carolina ahead of the 2024 first-in-the-nation Democratic presidential primary, it is important that we remind him and his administration of the unintended consequences a menthol ban would have on our farmers, rural communities and law enforcement officers.

Instead, Biden and the FDA should find meaningful and effective ways to reduce or prevent Americans from smoking. South Carolina’s rural communities simply cannot afford the broad impact of a national menthol ban.

Stanley Gruber is a life-long South Carolina farmer. He operates Gruber CSA Farms, a 100% family-owned full farm founded in 1948.

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