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Public Health Advocacy Institute

at Northeastern University School of Law

360 Huntington Avenue, 117CU

Boston, MA 02115


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Tobacco Litigation

Tobacco Litigation

Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable disease and premature death. Yet tobacco companies routinely oppose reasonable regulation at every level of government and test the vigilance of enforcement officials by pushing and exceeding the boundaries of existing tobacco controls. This often translates to protracted litigation and delayed policy implementation as companies challenge regulations and enforcement actions unfavorable to their bottom line. In fact, these resource-rich companies use costly litigation as a tool to defeat effective public health policies. The 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act and subsequent interventions enacted at the state and local level provide ground ripe for Tobacco Industry legal challenge. Litigation remains an important tool for safeguarding public health and reducing the impact tobacco companies exert through their products and marketing. For more information about specific cases, visit the subpages below.

Federal Regulation of Tobacco Products

Deeming Rule and Premarket Review: Various Cases (2016-ongoing)
Challenging the issuance and implementation of FDA’s 2016 rule deeming new tobacco products to be subject to the agency’s regulatory authority

Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO): United States v. Philip Morris (2006-2018)
U.S. Government lawsuit against Philip Morris and other tobacco manufacturers, alleging companies violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”) by concealing known risks of smoking

FDA Graphic Warnings: Various Cases (2006-ongoing)
Challenging the FDA’s graphic health warning requirement for cigarettes; challenging FDA’s authority to delay implementation of a rule requiring graphic health warnings

Marketing Restrictions: Discount Tobacco & Lottery v. U.S. (2012)
Challenging the tobacco marketing restrictions established by the FSPTCA, arguing restrictions violate First Amendment

Cigarette Trafficking: Various Cases (2010-ongoing)
Challenging the validity of the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act (the “PACT Act”); various lawsuits by New York City and New York State against shipment companies for unlawfully shipping contraband cigarettes in violation of state and federal laws

Smoke-Free Public Housing: NYC C.L.A.S.H. v. HUD
Challenging the U.S. Dep’t of Housing and Urban Development’s 2017 rule requiring public housing authorities to craft and implement smoke-free policies

State and Local Regulation of Tobacco Sales

Flavored Tobacco Sales Regulations: Various Cases (2010-ongoing)
Challenging local authority to restrict the sale of flavored tobacco products, arguing the local restrictions are prohibited under federal law and/or the Fourteenth Amendment

Price Promotions: Various Cases (2013-2014)
Challenging local authority to restrict the redemption of discount coupons and regulate cigarette promotions, arguing local restrictions violate the First Amendment and are prohibited under federal and state law

Retailer Graphic Health Warnings: 23-94th St. Grocery Corp. V. New York City Board of Health (2012)
Challenging city’s authority to require cigarette retailers to post graphic health warnings adjacent to registers or cigarette displays, arguing that the city requirement is prohibited under federal law and violates the First Amendment 

Native American Sales and State Tax: Various Cases (2010-2011)
Challenging New York State’s authority to collect cigarette taxes from Native American Retailers, arguing that federal regulation governing trade with Native Americans prevents the state from collecting taxes

State Tobacco Retailer Permit Fees: Long Island Gasoline Retailers Assn’n v. Paterson (2010)
Challenging State’s authority to implement a sliding scale structure for tobacco retailer registration application fees, arguing the new fee structure violates the Fourteenth Amendment

Private Lawsuits

JUUL Consumer Protection: Colgate et. al v. JUUL Labs, Inc. (ongoing)
Consumer class action lawsuit against JUUL Labs and Pax Labs, arguing companies’ advertising and marketing behavior violates false advertising, consumer protection, and deceptive trade practice statutory laws of the 50 states

Amicus Briefs

As part of the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium, the Center has supported amicus briefs filed on specific questions of law in various tobacco cases:

State Regulation of Tobacco Sales: Earl E. Graham v. R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (2015)
Whether the Panel’s preemption analysis accurately interpreted Congressional intent when it concluded that any state regulation banning sales of any tobacco product is prohibited

Menthol Cigarettes, Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee expert eligibility: U.S. Food & Drug Administration v. Lorillard, Inc. (2015)
Whether the district court erred in holding that three of the world’s foremost authorities on nicotine addiction should be disqualified from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee because of purported conflicts of interest and whether the FDA should be barred from using a March 2011 report on menthol cigarettes issued by this committee

Price Promotions: National Association of Tobacco Outlets, Inc., et al., v. City of New York (2014)
Whether New York City’s law prohibiting tobacco product price discounts violates the First Amendment and is prohibited by federal law

First Amendment, Compelled Speech: American Meat Institute v. United States Department of Agriculture (2014)
Whether a more deferential standard of First Amendment review applies to government-compelled disclosures, issued to tobacco companies, of factual information that is required for reasons other than consumer deception

Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act, State Health Warnings: 23-34 94th St. Grocery Corp. v N.Y.C. Board of Health (2011)
Whether Congress’s intent in enacting the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act’s preemption provision was to bar public health messaging that does not place any requirements on tobacco companies

Price Promotions: National Association of Tobacco Outlets v. City of Providence (2013)
Whether Providence’s Pricing Ordinance, regulating retailer use of discount tobacco coupons and multipack discounts in tobacco sales, infringes on freedom of speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment

Graphic Health Warnings: R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2011)
Whether the district court was correct in granting a preliminary injunction against enforcement of graphic warnings on cigarette packages (as required by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act), in light of evidence showing graphic warnings truthfully inform consumers of the risks of smoking in an easy to understand manner

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