Minnesota Congressman Dean Phillips arrives in New Hampshire today to follow in the footsteps of countless national political figures when he walks the hallowed halls of the historic State House and signs his paperwork to become a candidate for president of the United States.
Arguably, Phillips has an even greater responsibility and opportunity than those before him.
Because of the change of rules by the Democrat National Committee, Phillips will be the leading Democratic candidate on the ballot to compete for the votes of Granite Staters. That means he will get a first-hand view of the concerns, challenges, hopes, and desires of the people he seeks to represent. If history is any indicator, these are the people he’ll remember as he goes on to serve either in his continued role in Congress, as a national voice for the Democratic Party – or if he succeeds – as president of the United States.
As Phillips drives across the state, he will undoubtedly see signs in front of NECSEMA member retailers that boldly state, “Stop the Bans, Keep NH Free.” If he walks in to speak to the small business owners and employees, he will hear deep concerns about President Joe Biden’s proposed federal menthol ban, which will not only encroach on our personal liberties but also remove a key asset of the New Hampshire Advantage – the ability for New Hampshire to benefit from the poor policies of our neighbors in New England.
Because of the outcry from our members, NECSEMA hosted an event just two weeks ago on this exact topic. Attendees included members of the legislature, political activists, and everyday citizens who wanted to learn more about how they could help push back against the federal bans.
NECSEMA highlighted that as a result of a menthol cigarette ban in Massachusetts, the Bay State lost nearly $127 million in revenue, as nearly 90 percent of sales shifted out of state, primarily to New Hampshire. According to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, a federal menthol ban would cost New Hampshire $50 million in annual tax revenue. These are resources that go towards our school system, public safety, and infrastructure needs. Losing this revenue would mean either steep budget cuts to vital services or a dramatic increase in taxes – potentially even the creation of a state income tax, which would be the ultimate death blow to the New Hampshire Advantage.
Edgar Domenech, the former sheriff of New York City under Mayor Michael Bloomberg as well as former Deputy Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, highlighted how a federal menthol ban would force law enforcement to prosecute crime discriminately as a menthol ban would unjustly target minority communities including Black and LGBT smokers, who are the majority of menthol cigarette users. It would also stretch law enforcement thin as it continues to tackle other priorities, such as cracking down on fentanyl smuggling and the creation of an additional illicit market – this time of menthol cigarettes – which would ultimately financially benefit the same drug cartels our nation finds itself in battle with.
If Phillips travels to Coos County, which hosts New Hampshire’s border with Canada, he will hear from an increasing number of residents who have found bags of illicit drugs dropped near markers, representing a dramatic increase in the illicit cross-border drug market that has developed across our northern border. At a time when Gov. Chris Sununu has announced new efforts to crack down on the northern border drug smuggling route, we do not need our federal government to create new illicit markets for these dealers to profit from.
We wish Phillips well as he campaigns for president and are glad that he is respecting the time-honored tradition of retail campaigning in the Granite State. If he succeeds, he’ll have come to know the real-life impact a federal menthol ban will have on New Hampshire small businesses and taxpayers who benefit from the New Hampshire Advantage and how such a ban will hurt communities of color and our law enforcement simultaneously.