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Reexamining the Pathways to Reduction in Tobacco-Related Disease

Theoretical Inquiries in Law, Vol. 15, No. 2, 2014

Stanford Public Law Working Paper No. 2315233

22 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2013  

Robert L. Rabin

Stanford Law School

Date Written: August 15, 2013


Five years ago, when I last wrote on tobacco policy, my perspective was to offer an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of a half-century of tobacco control strategies aimed at reducing the health risks associated with cigarette smoking. I began with a discussion of informational strategies; then turned to public place restrictions; and followed with a treatment of excise tax initiatives. In my view, restrictions on advertising and promotion, and resort to tort litigation (the latter, of course, primarily in the privately-initiated common law sphere) had been less effective as control efforts, but nonetheless also warranted consideration. In the ensuing years, there have been a number of significant developments that have altered the course of tobacco control policy. Prominent among these developments has been the emergence of a stronger federal presence under the authority granted the Food & Drug Administration in the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009; the resort by the industry to litigation in a new guise — particularly reliant on the First Amendment — as an offensive weapon targeting regulatory controls; and the publication of the 2012 Surgeon General’s Report on youth smoking, which makes the case for top-priority attention to underage smoking behavior. These and related measures point to new pathways for breaking through a perceived recent loss of momentum in achieving further reductions in tobacco-related disease — new pathways, without abandoning what has worked in the recent past. I attempt to pull together these multiple fronts in a section focused on youth smoking, assessing the promise of present efforts to reduce the harms associated with tobacco. Finally, I offer some brief thoughts from a broader public health perspective, discussing the framework of tobacco control initiatives from the vantage point of the obesity problem.

Keywords: tobacco, tort, tax, regulation, FDA, public policy, health

JEL Classification: I18, K13, K23, K32, K34

Suggested Citation

Rabin, Robert L., Reexamining the Pathways to Reduction in Tobacco-Related Disease (August 15, 2013). Theoretical Inquiries in Law, Vol. 15, No. 2, 2014; Stanford Public Law Working Paper No. 2315233. Available at SSRN:

Robert L. Rabin (Contact Author)

Stanford Law School ( email )

559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305-8610
United States
650-723-3073 (Phone)
650-725-0253 (Fax)

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