Biden to address Sharpton group after missing deadline on menthol ban it opposed

President Joe Biden will speak to a group headed by civil rights leader Al Sharpton just days after missing the deadline to finalize a menthol cigarette ban that the organization opposed.

Sharpton founded the National Action Network, which for years has opposed bans on flavored cigars and menthol cigarettes, citing the potential for racial targeting by the police. Biden’s Food and Drug Administration first proposed banning menthols in April 2022 but missed a deadline for finalizing the rule at the end of March.

The president is scheduled to address NAN’s conference virtually at 2:45 p.m. Friday.

Biden is working to sharpen his reelection pitch to black voters, whom some polls indicate are migrating toward former President Donald Trump, by touting his accomplishments and efforts to address racial inequality, the Associated Press reported.

The president will not take questions from attendees following his address, with Sharpton leading a discussion afterward. Vice President Kamala Harris addressed last year’s edition of the conference in person.

Though a deadline to finalize the menthol ban passed on April 1, the FDA says it could still move forward before the election.

“The FDA remains committed to issuing the tobacco product standards for menthol in cigarettes and characterizing flavors in cigars as expeditiously as possible,” the agency said in a statement last week, noting that the process is in its final stage. “As we’ve made clear, these product standards remain at the top of our priorities.”

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Sharpton, along with some groups representing law enforcement, argues that a ban on menthol cigarettes would create underground markets and lead to more interactions with police. Proponents of the ban note that National Action Network has accepted donations from tobacco companies in the past.

Previous speakers at the group’s convention this week include MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, along with New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-NY).

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