Federalism and the Politics of Tobacco

Derthick, Martha. “Federalism and the Politics of Tobacco.” Publius 31, no. 1 (Winter 2001).

Late in 1998, the United States acquired a new regime of tobacco control engineered by the states’ attorneys general. Nearly all of them had filed lawsuits against the major cigarette manufacturers, allegedly with the aim of recouping Medicaid costs attributable to smoking. Despite latent differences of culture and interest in regard to tobacco control, all of the states eventually joined in settlements with the industry that exacted large payments and restricted the industry’s advertising and marketing practices. This article explains how it was possible for many different polities to agree on the settlement terms, and asks what the case shows about the impact of federalism on tobacco policymaking. It concludes that tobacco policymaking in the 30 years prior to the lawsuits (1964–1994) was more consonant with constitutional principles and not ineffective in achieving control.