Study reveals litigation as Big Tobacco’s new weapon
Though legal action has long been used by Big Tobacco to weaken anti-smoking efforts, a study published by a Temple researcher in the February issue of Tobacco Control finds that new legal strategies are keeping the most effective anti-smoking advertisements from the public.
Past research suggests that ad campaigns that expose the industry’s manipulative practices, such as marketing to children and minorities, are more successful than those that focus on the health dangers of smoking.
Recent tobacco industry lawsuits against two such campaigns, California’s state tobacco control media campaign and the American Legacy Foundation’s truth campaign, form the basis of this study.
By analyzing news reports and tobacco industry documents, and interviewing health advocates and media campaign staff, the researchers identified several new litigation strategies centered on alleged violations of the First, Sixth and Fourteenth amendments and “vilification” clauses added to the Master Tobacco Settlement that forbid tobacco company money from being used to attack the industry.
Although the tobacco industry lost both cases, winning was not the goal.
“The tobacco industry has the resources to pursue litigation regardless of the outcome,” said lead investigator and Temple public health professor Jennifer Ibrahim.
“Lengthy, costly court battles are simply the price of doing business. But these lawsuits drain money and manpower from anti-smoking efforts and ultimately slow their ability to reach the public, thereby missing out on opportunities to prevent new smokers from starting and encourage existing smokers to quit.”
Fortunately, while legal tactics succeed in delaying anti-smoking campaigns, the tactics have not succeeded in stopping the campaigns altogether. Ibrahim warns that anti-tobacco advocates must be proactive by anticipating and preparing for these new legal challenges.
- By Tory Harris