How Big Tobacco worked behind the scenes in Louisiana for “tort reform”

Tanner Wakefield and I just published “The Tobacco Industry’s Tort Reform Campaign to Avoid Liability in Louisiana” in Addictive Behaviors. This paper uses previously secret internal tobacco industry documents to describe how the tobacco companies worked through intermediaries to promote “tort reform” that would shield it from legal liability for all the death and destruction it creates. Louisiana was one of the first places that the industry pressed for tort reform. After some initial successes, exposure of tobacco’s involvement prevented it from securing more favorable legislation. Understanding this history will help public health advocates anticipate and defeat its efforts to win favorable legislation.

Here is the abstract:

We analyze the tobacco industry’s “tort reform” campaign in Louisiana, which marked its first takeover of a state tort reform coalition, and interpret the strategies using the Policy Dystopia Model. We searched internal tobacco industry documents in the UCSF Truth Tobacco Industry Documents Library and searched news archives of state and local periodicals between 1985 and 2000. Using alliances, the tobacco industry clandestinely secured legislation in 1988 limiting manufacturer liability for inherently dangerous products. The industry took over a coalition in 1992 to defend its gains, minimize its publicly visible role, and pursue policies it likely could not directly advocate for after Louisiana’s government became more hostile to tort reform. The industry defended gains but failed to secure legislation eliminating liability for inherently dangerous products after its involvement was exposed. This case study expands the applicability of the Policy Dystopia Model. The industry passes laws harmful to the public interest by cloaking its involvement and motivations behind allies, front groups and generalized messaging. Exposing the industry’s role can help public health advocates protect against pro-industry legislation.

The full citation is: Wakefield TD, Glantz SA. The Tobacco Industry’s Tort Reform Campaign to Avoid Liability in Louisiana. Addictive Behaviors 2021;107147 [epub before print], ( It is available here.

Published by Stanton Glantz

Stanton Glantz is a retired Professor of Medicine who served on the University of California San Francisco faculty for 45 years. He conducts research on tobacco and cannabis control and cardiovascular disease/

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