Commercial Tobacco Control

In the wake of unassailable medical research proving commercial tobacco’s lethal effects, tobacco control policies have proliferated. Tobacco exacts a staggering toll on the world population – not just in mortality (approximately 5 million deaths a year) but in billions of dollars in tobacco-related health care costs and expenditures due to active and passive smoking. U.S. legal and regulatory policies related to tobacco have included state and local laws prohibiting smoking in public places and workplaces, restrictions on the sale and marketing of tobacco products (particularly to children), and federal legislation giving the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco.

In addition to legislation and regulation, commercial tobacco control strategies have also included litigation. Evidence of the tobacco industry’s long history of deception and suppression of information about the health hazards of its products has led to several waves of civil and class action lawsuits. The legal decision in United States v. Philip Morris, the U.S. government’s monumental racketeering case against cigarette manufacturers, exposed the industry’s deceit and fraud in its marketing and manufacture of products over the years. Findings from this decision, and other recent successful challenges to the tobacco industry, have spurred countries to join a global movement and ratify the world’s first health treaty to reduce and prevent tobacco use.

The Public Health Law Center supports commercial tobacco control policy change and the commercial tobacco control movement throughout the United States, developing resources on the most effective legal and policy measures that health leaders and policymakers can use to control the epidemic of commercial tobacco use in the United States and abroad.


Featured resources are below. Other relevant resources in right sidebar (desktop/tablet), or end of page (mobile).


U.S. E-Cigarette Regulations - 50 State Review (2020)

A 50-state survey (plus Washington, D.C.) of current state statutes pertaining to e-cigarette regulations in the following areas: definition of “tobacco product,” taxation, product packaging, youth access/other retail restrictions, and smoke-free air legislation.

Health Equity Sign

Centering Equity in the Tobacco Control Act's Public Health Standard (2021)

Overview of the legal standard by which FDA makes some of its most important tobacco control regulatory decisions and explanation of why health equity should guide its decision making in setting product standards and reviewing new products.

Juul charging in laptop

Juul and the Guinea Pig Generation Revisited: Juul's Spawning of the Youth Vaping Epidemic (2020)

Resource containing updated evidence of Juul’s marketing practices and the health impacts of youth use and describing regulatory steps and legal actions to rein in Juul and other e-cigarette manufacturers.

Juul e-cigarette

JUUL and the Guinea Pig Generation: Public Health Concerns about Use by Young People (2018)

Information resource about JUUL e-cigarettes, their rise in popularity among youth and young adults, and the concerns public health and tobacco control professionals have about these products.

Girl with apple

Focusing on Equity and Inclusion When We Work on Public Health Laws (2018)

Law impacts our health and our opportunities to lead healthy lives in multi-layered ways. This resource offers guidance on how to use the Five Essential Public Health Law Services Framework and other resources to address racism and other social determinants of health in the public health sector.