the past couple of decades, the courts and Congress have been grappling with
tobaccorelated issues, among them, the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s)
authority to regulate certain tobacco products under the Federal Food,
Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA); the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) that
resulted from lawsuits brought by states’ attorneys general against
tobacco companies; federal, private party, and foreign lawsuits against tobacco companies;
limits on tobacco advertising; restrictions on selling and distributing tobacco
to minors; and the Federal Trade Commission’s rescission of its 1966
guidance document relating to tar and nicotine yields in cigarettes. This
report addresses the above issues, with the exception of the FDA’s
authority to regulate tobacco products. For information on that topic see CRS
Report R41304, FDA Final Rule Restricting the Sale and Distribution of
Cigarettes and Smokeless Tobacco, by C. Stephen Redhead and Jane M.
In the 1990s, states’ attorneys general brought lawsuits for reimbursement of
their states’ tobaccorelated medical expenses. They reached a settlement
with tobacco companies in 1997, but the settlement did not garner the
congressional approval needed for implementation. In 1998, 46 states, the
District of Columbia, five U.S. territories, and the tobacco industry signed
the MSA, worth $206 billion over 26 years.
In 1999, the Clinton Administration filed a lawsuit against major tobacco
companies and industry trade groups to recoup federal tobacco-related
medical costs. In 2006, a federal district court held that the tobacco
companies violated two provisions under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization
Act (RICO) by, among other things, making false statements about the health
effects of smoking. Among other remedies, the court ordered them to remove
descriptors such as light, low-tar, natural, mild, and ultra light from
their packaging. In 2012, the court ordered them to issue factual
statements to counter the false statements that were part of the RICO verdict.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1992 decision in Cipollone v. Liggett Group
Inc., individual and class action lawsuits have been brought against
tobacco companies under theories such as fraudulent representation,
conspiracy, breach of express warranty, and failure to warn. The private party
suit section of this report discusses selected state class actions. Suits
brought in federal courts by foreign governments for medical care costs
resulting from tobacco-related illnesses have not been successful.
Tobacco advertising is restricted at the federal, state, and local levels. The
Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act (FCLAA), the Family Smoking
Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (FSPTCA), state laws, the MSA, and
local ordinances limit tobacco advertising in ways such as prohibiting
radio and television advertisements, compelling the use of health warning labels, limiting
the use of terms that imply decreased health risks, banning the use of
cartoons, and requiring individuals to have contact with a sales person
before purchasing tobacco products. Additionally, federal law plays a role
in enforcing laws that prohibit tobacco sales and marketing to minors.
Date of Report: January 14, 2013
Number of Pages: 18 Order Number: RL33719 Price: $29.95
For email and phone orders, provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card
number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail
or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.