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In a landmark report by the U.S. Surgeon General in 1964, the government warned its citizens of the adverse effects of smoking on their health and took a series of steps to discourage smoking. These steps stemmed from ordinary politics -that is, actions taken or authorized by legislatures. 1994 heralded a new era in tobacco politics: of adversarial legalism, wherein state attorneys general sued leading cigarette manufacturers for the harm they had done to public health. These law-suits culminated in the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) that directed an estimated $250 billion to state governments over the next 25 years and imposed new marketing and advertising restrictions.
In her second edition, Martha Derthick introduces new evidence from 5 years of experience under the MSA to show that the states were more interested in raising revenue than in improving tobacco control, that the enrichment of wealthy tort lawyers violated the legal profession's ethics, and that the agreement, ironically, spawned the rise of small, upstart cigarette manufacturers able to undersell the major companies. In this clearly written, fast-paced case study, Derthick concludes that the tobacco lawsuits not only produced flawed public policy that flouted the American system of checks and balances, but has done little to improve or better safeguard public health.
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