Invest in Community Education and Awareness and Stop the Menthol Ban


I am a third-generation farmer from Colleton County. And, while I have not always been a farmer by trade, since I retired from Richland County Government in 2023, Gibson Farms, LLC has become my primary focus. In South Carolina, farming is still a way of life and a livelihood for many and tobacco remains an important crop, as it has always been.

It is no secret, however, that farming is a risky business that presents a daily struggle for those in this line of work. Farming has (and continues to have) a reputation for having a career and lifestyle that has proven difficult to sustain generationally over several decades, especially for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. The failure of small-sized family farms is more than a personal tragedy. It is an economic and social tragedy as its loss undercuts rural economies and identity. That is why my siblings and I are so passionate about the farm we now have today.

Government regulation to restrict or eliminate the crops that we cultivate for our livelihood is an assault on our way of life. Bans, especially those like the proposed menthol tobacco ban, only hinder the types of crops we can invest in, grow, and produce. They hurt farmers the most. A blanket ban creates more negative consequences than community education and awareness programs to help people quit. And as we have seen throughout history, bans in America have historically failed.

The proposed Menthol Ban isn’t good for African American and rural communities for four reasons:

1. The ban will disproportionately impact African Americans and communities of color since 88% of African American tobacco users prefer menthol tobacco products.

2. Menthol cigarette bans will take sales out of the stores and into the streets where illegal markets will increase policing in communities of color and will increase the sale of unregulated tobacco products.

3. The illegal market and attempts by law enforcement to enforce a ban will lead to fines, arrests, and incarceration of those who sell menthol cigarettes and will create negative police encounters.

4. Menthol cigarette bans may force neighborhood stores to close because they depend upon selling tobacco products to stay in business, employ community members, and provide communities with the bare essentials.

As the product of South Carolina’s rural community and the owner of a small farm, it seems to me that investing in community awareness education and programs is a better way to deal with the issue of the use of menthol tobacco products than a wholesale menthol ban. In rural areas of our state, the menthol cigarette industry supports nearly 4,000 jobs and $900 million in revenue. These jobs, wages, and economic outputs are essential to rural areas of our state that lack the large manufacturing and retail industries prevalent in other areas.

The Biden Harris administration has been responsive to the needs of South Carolinians. That was certainly evident during the First in the Nation events held here in South Carolina this past week. We heard over and over again how much South Carolina appreciates Retail Joe and how much President Biden appreciates the support of South Carolina voters, particularly black Democratic voters.

The creation of jobs across America, the forgiveness of student loan debt for so many in this nation and the reduction of medication for the chronically ill, show that the Biden Harris Administration is responsive and has listened when we have spoken.

We hope President Biden is still listening as South Carolina farmers speak out against this proposed Menthol Ban. Let’s find a way to invest in farming and rural areas rather than placing another prohibitive act against farmers.

Moses Gibson is a third-generation farmer who owns and operates Gibson Farms in Blythewood. He served in Richland County government in various capacities for twenty years.