Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2012


tobacco use, public health policy


Reprinted with permission from Health Law Journal, Spring 2012, vol. 17, no. 2, published by the New York State Bar Association, One Elk Street, Albany, NY 12207.


Tobacco use has been the leading cause of preventable death in the United States for decades yet public health advocates have struggled to secure legislation effectively regulating tobacco products and their use. This is largely due to the role tobacco played in the economic development of the United States, particularly in the southern states, and the power tobacco companies wielded with Congress. Although tobacco use has declined significantly in recent decades and our country no longer relies on tobacco crops for economic stability, tobacco products still maintain a prominent place in American culture, often serving as the straw man in debates over how public health regulation threatens the concept of American freedom. Understanding the successes and challenges of the tobacco regulation movement may benefit public health officials and advocates seeking to address other public health issues. To be sure, using laws to protect and preserve the public's health is not a modern or novel concept; boards of health with plenary regulatory power have been in existence for well over a century. But the drive to reduce the toll of tobacco use through law provides unique and important insight into the role that lawyers and the legal system can play in improving public health.

Publication Citation

17 Health Law Journal 32 (2012).


Health Law and Policy