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September 24, 1997

Settling Short on TobaccoLet the Trials Begin

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass.

JAMA. 1997;278(12):1028. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03550120088043

IN THE LAST MONTH, since the announcement of a proposed comprehensive tobacco settlement, many critics have raised serious objections. In particular, they have properly focused on the proposed weakening of the Food and Drug Administration's recently acquired authority to regulate nicotine, as well as limitations on future class-action litigation and punitive damages. Little attention, however, has been focused on the potential public health benefits associated with a wide range of antitobacco litigation that inevitably would at tract intense media coverage. The settlement of major tobacco suits and the limitations on other antitobacco litigation would mark the decline of intense tobacco media attention that has, over the last quarter-century, transformed the meaning of cigarette use in American society.

Above all else, the proposed settlement would spare the tobacco industry years of devastating publicity. If the attorneys general's cases, as well as others, are litigated, they will bring into the open