Despite the widespread adoption of strengthened tobacco control policies in recent decades, the combination of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States.
In response to the overwhelming evidence revealing the lethal effects of tobacco, states and municipalities have enacted laws that restrict the sale and marketing of tobacco products. Dozens of states and hundreds of municipalities, representing nearly 50 percent of the nation’s population, have eliminated smoking in indoor workplaces, restaurants and bars. In 2009, historic federal legislation gave the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco products. Tobacco control law continues to evolve as new laws are created, old laws are amended and courts interpret existing laws.
The Public Health Law Center provides a host of resources, including fact sheets, toolkits, and legal updates related to tobacco control.
While “Tobacco 21” and clean air laws are effective tobacco control strategies, particularly at reducing youth use, they’re not politically feasible in much of the country – twenty states still do not have comprehensive indoor smoking restrictions and only California and Hawaii have raised the minimum tobacco purchase age to 21. State and local tobacco licensing programs are critical to preventing youth use of tobacco products. These programs enable communities to identify retail businesses that sell tobacco products.
The Network received a request from a public health advocate who was concerned about the impact of a state ballot proposal on current smoke-free workplace laws.
Tobacco control continues to involve issues related to smoke-free policies, taxation, sales and marketing, product regulation, enforcement, youth access and workplace policies. In addition, federal, state and local laws continue to interact in ways that affect the development, enactment and implementation of tobacco-control policies.
An organization in the Network, the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium, collaborates with local, state and national partners to help improve the nation’s tobacco control policies. This work includes providing technical assistance on all of the tobacco issues listed above, from smoke-free policies to product regulation.
The Network can provide legal technical assistance in many ways, including responding to individual requests from public health professionals, attorneys, policy-makers, state and community coalitions and others grappling with the issues above. Technical assistance includes litigation support to city and county attorneys, state attorneys general and legal counsel representing advocacy organizations, and individual citizens defending smoke-free laws and other critical tobacco-control policies. The Network is also well-equipped to prepare friend-of-the-court legal briefs, often alongside the nation’s leading health organizations, for key appellate cases. Finally, technical assistance also includes the development of model policies, cutting-edge policy research and work to anticipate emerging legal issues with the potential to affect public health practice. The Network also offers access to a wealth of publications and educational materials and opportunities for regular training at conferences, via webinars and through other venues.
For legal assistance and support on tobacco control:
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The Network for Public Health Law provides information and technical assistance on issues related to public health. The legal information and assistance provided does not constitute legal advice or legal representation. For legal advice, please consult specific legal counsel. For more information on the type of legal assistance the Network can provide, please see frequently asked questions.