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March 5, 1997

Tobacco LitigationIssues for Public Health and Public Policy

Author Affiliations

From the Institute for Health Policy Studies and Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco.

JAMA. 1997;277(9):751-753. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03540330073038

JAMA made international news in July 1995 when it published a series of 5 articles presenting the first academic analysis of about 10 000 pages of previously secret tobacco industry documents, known as the Brown and Williamson documents.1-5 These documents demonstrated that, as long ago as the 1960s, the tobacco industry knew nicotine was an addictive drug and smoking caused cancer and other disease, and that it developed a sophisticated legal and public relations strategy to keep this information away from the public, public health authorities, and the courts. An accompanying Editorial6 identified 14 steps to pursue regarding its opposition to tobacco use, including "All avenues of individual and collective redress... through the judicial system." Fueled in part by publication of the Brown and Williamson documents, there has been an explosion of litigation against the tobacco industry since then.

Today the tobacco industry faces a wide variety of