Tobacco litigation as a public health and cancer control strategy

J Am Med Womens Assoc (1972). 1996 Jan-Apr;51(1-2):57-62.


Objective: To provide an overview of the class action and medical cost reimbursement suits of the third wave of tobacco litigation and to analyze their chances for success and their efficacy as a public health and cancer control strategy.

Method/data sources: The application of standard, predictive legal reasoning to documents from three class action lawsuits, four of the five state medical cost reimbursement lawsuits, documents from the tobacco industry, and appropriate secondary sources.

Conclusions: Victory in any of the class actions would result in a transfer of costs, albeit an inefficient one, from injured smokers to the tobacco industry. Victory in any of the medical cost reimbursement suits would result in a transfer of costs from injured states forced to shoulder the economic burden of tobacco-induced illnesses to the tobacco industry. Such a transfer of costs would likely have the immediate impact of significantly lowering cigarette consumption, while the long-term effects would probably be much more devastating. Victory in at least some of the third wave cases is likely, because a number of factors promise to enable plaintiffs to overcome the previously impenetrable defenses of the tobacco industry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Health Policy
  • Industry / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Lung Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Nicotiana*
  • Plants, Toxic*
  • Smoking Prevention*
  • United States