Legal Issues

It has become de rigeur for the tobacco industry, or more often, a front group, to both threaten and file lawsuits against smokefree laws, usually targeting whoever has the authority to enact such a law.

There are several reasons the tobacco industry does this. During an ordinance campaign, the industry will threaten a lawsuit in an attempt to convince the community that if it proceeds to enact a law it will be faced with a lengthy suit that it cannot afford. After an ordinance is enacted, a typical lawsuit may be brought to delay implementation, usually in the form of an injunction or temporary restraining order. The industry knows that once an ordinance is implemented, it will be highly successful both in terms of compliance and public support, so it uses any time it can get by bringing the lawsuit to foment dissent within the community, to bombard the media with made-up stories of gloom and doom, and to try to convince neighboring communities not to follow suit.

Fortunately, almost all lawsuits brought by Big Tobacco fail. Courts have been nearly unanimous in ruling that smokefree laws are constitutional, and that governing bodies have the authority to protect the public from secondhand smoke. There are five common types of lawsuits brought by the opposition: equal protection claims, due process claims, regulatory authority claims, implied preemption claims, and takings claims.

If you are faced with a legal challenge or the threat of one, please contact ANR right away.