In the wake of unassailable medical research proving tobacco’s lethal effects, tobacco control policies have proliferated. Tobacco exacts a staggering toll on the world population – not just in mortality (approximately 5 million deaths a year) but in billions of dollars in tobacco-related health care costs and expenditures due to active and passive smoking. A clearer case for public health law and policy could not be made.
U.S. legal and regulatory policies related to tobacco have included state and local laws prohibiting smoking in public places and workplaces, restrictions on the sale and marketing of tobacco products – particularly to children – and federal legislation giving the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco.
In addition to legislation and regulation, tobacco control strategies have also included litigation. Evidence of the tobacco industry’s long history of deception and suppression of information about the health hazards of its products has led to several waves of civil and class action lawsuits. The legal decision in United States v. Philip Morris, the U.S. government’s monumental racketeering case against cigarette manufacturers, exposed the industry’s deceit and fraud in its marketing and manufacture of products over the years. Findings from this decision, and other recent successful challenges to the tobacco industry, have spurred countries to join a global movement and ratify the world’s first health treaty to reduce and prevent tobacco use.
This section includes information on the most effective legal and policy measures that health leaders and policymakers can take to control the epidemic of tobacco use in the United States and abroad.