Action against Government to Advance the Public Interest

An individual or organization may sue their own government in order to advance or protect the public interest. For example, an NGO may sue the government claiming the government’s weak tobacco control laws violated their constitutional right to health.

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Challenge to Government Policies Relating to Tobacco Control/Public Health

Tobacco companies or front groups may challenge any legislative or regulatory measure that affects their business interests. Unlike public interest litigation, these cases seek to weaken health measures. These cases frequently involve the industry proceeding against the government. For example, a group of restaurant owners challenging a smoke free law as unconstitutional.

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Enforcement Action by a Private Individual or Private Entity

Some jurisdictions allow an individual or organization to initiate an action against another private party who is not following a particular law. For example, a person may sue a restaurant that allows smoking despite a smoke free law. If the plaintiff is claiming the violation of the law caused physical harm, this may also be a personal injury case.

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Government Enforcement Action

Government, through its agencies and officials including prosecutors, may seek to enforce its health laws. For example, the government may revoke the license of a retailer that sells tobacco products to minors. These cases may also directly involve the tobacco industry, for example, a government might impound and destroy improperly labeled cigarette packs.

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Health Care Cost Recovery

Governments or insurance agencies may seek reimbursement from the tobacco companies for health care costs related to tobacco. The most famous example is the case brought by individual states in the U.S.A. that resulted in the Master Settlement Agreement.

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Industry Action against Individual

The tobacco industry may attack an individual or organization in court. For example, a tobacco company may sue a tobacco control advocacy organization for defamation. Another example is a suit in which a tobacco company sought burdensome document production from a University under a freedom of information claim.

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Personal Injury

An individual or organization may seek civil damages against a tobacco company based on the claim that the use of tobacco products causes disease or death. Some of these cases will relate to general tobacco products, while others will relate to specific subcategories of tobacco products--for example, light or low products, menthol or other flavored products. Additionally, there may be cases relating to exposure to secondhand smoke.

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Trade Panel/Investment Tribunal/Arbitration

Governments may bring complaints before intergovernmental bodies on tobacco-related issues. For example, one country may complain that another country’s tax regime discriminates against its exported tobacco products. In some cases, a treaty may allow a private party to file a complaint against a government before an intergovernmental body.

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