Litigation and Public Health Policymaking: The Case of Tobacco Control

Posted: 15 Sep 1999  

Peter D. Jacobson

University of Michigan School of Public Health

Kenneth E. Warner

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - School of Public Health

Abstract

Many tobacco control advocates believe that legislators and regulators have failed to enact and implement sufficiently stringent tobacco control laws and thus have supported litigation as a means of achieving public health policy goals. In this article, we examine the relationship between litigation and public health policy formulation in the context of the debate over tobacco control policy. The fundamental questions are how social policy should be made regarding the use of tobacco products, and which institutions should be responsible for controlling tobacco use: the market, the political system (i.e., the legislative and regulatory branches of government), or the courts.

On balance we conclude that litigation is a second-best solution. We see a distinct role for litigation as a complement to a broader, comprehensive approach to tobacco control policymaking, rather than as an alternative to the traditional political apparatus of formulating and implementing public health policy. Our analysis suggests that, in general, public health goals are more directly achievable through the political process than through litigation, though situations such as those concerning tobacco control blur the bounds between litigation and the politics of public health. Litigation has stimulated a national debate over the role of smoking in society and may well move the policy agenda. But we conclude that a sustained legislative and regulatory presence ought to be the bulwark of meaningful policy changes.

Suggested Citation

Jacobson, Peter D. and Warner, Kenneth E., Litigation and Public Health Policymaking: The Case of Tobacco Control. Journal of Health Politics, Policy & Law, Vol. 24, P. 769, 1999. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=180614

Peter D. Jacobson (Contact Author)

University of Michigan School of Public Health ( email )

109 Observatory
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2029
United States
734-936-0928 (Phone)
734-764-4338 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.sph.umich.edu/~pdj/

Kenneth E. Warner

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - School of Public Health ( email )

1415 Washington Heights
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2029
United States
734-936-0934 (Phone)
734-764-4338 (Fax)

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