The Development of Tobacco Litigation in USA and it's Impact of Law and Politics in Public Health

미국 담배소송의 변천과 보건법정책 효과

  • Kim, Un-Mook (Guest Research Fellow of Research Institute in the Health Insurance Review & Assessment Service1) ;
  • Kim, Ji-Hyun (Korea University, Graduate School of Public Health)
  • 김운묵 (건강보험심사평가원, 한국입법학연구소) ;
  • 김지현 (고려대학교 보건대학원)
  • Received : 2011.04.13
  • Accepted : 2011.06.10
  • Published : 2011.06.30


Since mid-1960s the reports from the Surgeon General, the World Health Organization, and other health experts state that there is no risk-free level exposure to smoking and secondhand smoke. Tobacco smoke is made up of more than 7,000 chemicals. Hundreds are toxic, and at least 70 are carcinogens. The chemicals in tobacco smoke reach smoker's lungs quickly every time smoker inhale causing damages immediately. Inhaling even the smallest amount of tobacco smoke can also damage smoker's DNA, which can lead to cancers. Smoking is responsible for more than 87% of lung cancers, but there are a host of other chronic diseases directly related to exposure to tobacco smoke. It's also a major cause of heart disease, stroke, aortic aneurysm, peripheral arterial disease and most of the other diseases. In the United States, each year with more than from 440,000 to 520,000 deaths caused by smoking and exposure to involuntary smoke. They conclude that smoking is the single most important source of preventable morbidity and mortality. The United States of America have about 60-year history of tobacco litigation. Tobacco litigation has been an important tool in tobacco control strategies aimed at limiting the activities of tobacco companies and providing redress to people who have become ill as a result of their use of tobacco products. Tobacco litigation is a kind of tort litigation. Quite often, as in the asbestos and other mass tort litigation episodes, tobacco litigation can play an educational role, warning the public about the magnitude of health risks that might otherwise be less clearly perceived. Tobacco litigation allows smokers, their families or other victims of smoking to sue tobacco companies in order to be compensated for the harm they have suffered. Potential benefits of tobacco litigation include compensation for smoking-related damages, strengthening regulatory activity, publicity, documents disclosure and changing tobacco industry behavior. And also tobacco litigation can limit the political activities of tobacco industry, protect human rights of smokers and non-smokers, increase burden to tobacco price-up and enhance the effects of law and politics in public health.