Tobacco Litigation Has Changed

There have been lawsuits involving the smoking of tobacco for more than half a century. Smokers, families of smokers and the government have been bringing suits against tobacco companies under different conditions for many years, but there have been changes in the approach as decades have passed.

Early lawsuits against cigarette manufactures were met with vigorous response by tobacco companies. Plaintiffs claimed that manufactures had failed to act with responsible care in making and marketing cigarettes, and were therefore negligent. The first wave of lawsuits also claimed fraud, product liability, and unfair and deceptive business practices. The cigarette companies response was that tobacco was not harmful to smokers, cancer was being caused by other factors, and smokers assumed any risk cigarettes posed to their health. It was an effective defense, and prevailed.

During the 1980’s the second attempt at litigating with cigarette companies was brought about by the addiction argument: tobacco companies were aware of the addictive nature of their product and that it also caused cancer. The defense was once again successful by arguing assumed health risks associated with cigarettes.

By the 1990’s, suits against tobacco companies garnered success after documents were leaked demonstrating that cigarette manufactures were well aware of the addictive nature of their product. A landmark decision in California led to large scale settlements with states that addressed:

Health-care compensation for the states
Eliminating advertising aimed at youth

The National Public Education Foundation creation for educating children on the dangers of cigarette smoke. In more recent years, a new wave of lawsuits is focusing on light cigarettes. These products include filters that dilute cigarette smoke. Tobacco companies have responded with claims that ‘light’ refers to taste only, and not the damaging effects of smoking. Due to the complexity of this type of litigation, you are best served by consulting with an attorney locally to decide on a course of legal action.

Source: NOLO

Posted in General Advice & Tips


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