Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Tobacco industry litigation to deter local public health ordinances: the industry usually loses in court
  1. M L Nixon,
  2. L Mahmoud,
  3. S A Glantz
  1. Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Stanton A Glantz
 PhD, Box 1390, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94143-1390, USA;


Background: The tobacco industry uses claims of state preemption or violations of the US Constitution in litigation to overturn local tobacco control ordinances.

Methods: Collection of lawsuits filed or threatened against local governments in the USA; review of previously secret tobacco industry documents; interviews with key informants.

Results: The industry is most likely to prevail when a court holds that there is explicit preemption language by the state legislature to exclusively regulate tobacco. The industry has a much weaker record on claims of implied preemption and has lost all challenges brought under equal protection claims in the cases we located. Although the tobacco industry is willing to spend substantial amounts of money on these lawsuits, it never won on constitutional equal protection grounds and lost or dropped 60% (16/27) of the cases it brought claiming implied state preemption.

Conclusions: Municipalities should continue to pass ordinances and be prepared to defend them against claims of implied preemption or on constitutional grounds. If the ordinance is properly prepared they will likely prevail. Health advocates should be prepared to assist in this process.

  • tobacco control
  • litigation
  • secondhand smoke
  • youth access
  • preemption

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.