Regulating Tobacco Through Litigation

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Patrick Luff

This article takes a new approach to evaluating regulation of tobacco in general and the regulatory impact of the tobacco litigation in particular. Rather than viewing the tobacco litigation in isolation, regulation-through-litigation as an institutional response should be compared with potential alternative institutional responses such as regulation via administrative agency or the operation of market forces. Because courts have been better at generating technocratic information and at the same time can avoid the barriers to regulation that other institutions face, courts have been and will continue to be the preferred institution for regulating the social-costs externalities of tobacco consumption. In combination with an appreciation of the main regulatory problems that tobacco presents, this conclusion suggests a reevaluation of regulatory devices such as taxation, administrative compensation systems, and liability that could address these problems. This article concludes that a court-based enterprise-liability scheme would be the most effective tool for correcting the social-cost externalities created by tobacco consumption.

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