U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), and colleagues sent a letter to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf urging the agency to examine how Mexican TCOs and other criminal groups could exploit the black market for tobacco products before implementing the proposed rule.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed to finalize a rule to prohibit menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, as well as install a maximum nicotine level in tobacco products, in an attempt to reduce disease and youth addiction from tobacco product use.
Mexican Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) have been known to diversify their activities in response to changing regulations and consumer behavior from the United States.
However, the FDA’s proposed rule could unintentionally fuel the expansion of TCO smuggling operations and expose Americans to unregulated and unsafe tobacco products.
“Mexican TCOs pose a grave threat to American national security and public health. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) labeled these organizations ‘the greatest criminal drug threat the United States has ever faced,” said the letter.
In the news: Conservative Group To Spend Millions Defending Republicans Who Fought McCarthy’s Speaker Bid
“While the primary threat from Mexican TCOs come from trafficking in illicit drugs, these organizations have diversified their activities in response to changing conditions. As it has become easier to sell marijuana products in the U.S., Mexican TCOs have prioritized trafficking fentanyl and other synthetic drugs that are cheaper to manufacture, easier to transport, and generate more profit. But Mexican TCOs are also using other activities, both legal and illegal, to fund their lethal operations,” the letter said.
“These organizations have engaged in extensive human trafficking with an estimated 70% of trafficking victims in the United States coming from Mexico. Human trafficking is estimated to provide $13 billion a year in revenue to TCOs. TCOs are also leveraging agriculture for additional revenue streams. For example, in February 2022, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) temporarily suspended Mexican imports of avocados into the United States due to threats against American safety inspectors in Mexico. Similarly, the price of limes increased 90% between December 2020-2021 due in part to expanded cartel activity in lime production,” said lawmakers.
Senators Bill Hagerty (R-TN) and Ted Budd (R-NC) also signed the letter.
Earlier this year, Rubio and Cassidy led a group of colleagues in urging the Biden Administration to sanction Tobacco International Holdings (TIH), its principals, and its subsidiaries and affiliate companies due to its publicly reported affiliation with the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG).
We can’t do this without your help; visit our GiveSendGo page and donate any dollar amount; every penny helps.