Role Of Government Branches In Tobacco War

November 10, 1998

EDITORS: Peter Jacobson will present the article, "Litigation as Public Health Policymaking: The Case of Tobacco Control," 12:15-1:45 p.m. Nov. 18 at the Washington Hilton during at the American Public Health Association annual meeting.

ANN ARBOR---Public health advocates who support tobacco control litigation believe the legislative and regulatory arms of government have failed to control tobacco use, so they've turned to the court system in an effort to create policies designed to protect the public from tobacco harms. In some ways, those efforts have paid off because litigation has influenced public health policy, but litigation alone won't solve the problem and may not be the best way to change tobacco control policy, according to a new University of Michigan study.

"Litigation to form public policy is probably not going to achieve the policy goals tobacco control advocates would like to see, in part because of the limits on the types of policies courts can influence. The courts are not well suited for adopting policy changes. Public health advocates need to build a moral and political case as to why tobacco should be controlled," said Peter D. Jacobson, senior author of an article forthcoming in the June issue of the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law.

Jacobson, U-M associate professor of health management and policy, and Kenneth E. Warner, U-M professor of health management and policy, examine the role of tobacco litigation in shaping public policy in the article, "Litigation and Public Health Policymaking: The Case of Tobacco Control."

Jacobson will present the results of the study on Nov. 18 at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association in Washington, D.C.

The authors argue the traditional avenue of forming public policy, through legislative and regulatory processes, is likely to be more effective in achieving public health goals.

The authors raise these arguments:"Our conclusions are unlikely to satisfy either the proponents or opponents of litigation as policy. But, democracy is often an untidy and disorderly process where our three branches of government collide," Jacobson said.

The study was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Investigator Awards in Health Policy Research Program.

University of Michigan

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