Don't want to hire smokers? Check the law first
A recent article in American Medical News, a publication of the American Medical Association, warns employers to consider the legal implications before implementing a new hiring policy that excludes smokers from employment. According to legal experts, hiring and firing employees based on their health status may be considered “lifestyle discrimination.” It is suggested that employers check their state and local employment laws to ensure that their policy is legal, and use clear and specific wording for hiring policies and job applications. Click here to read the full article.
State could lose tobacco money (AL)
Tobacco companies participating in the Master Settlement Agreement are now taking more than forty states to court, claiming that because the states have not been properly enforcing laws against illegal tobacco sales, the companies have been overpaying their settlement money. Since the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement, tobacco companies have paid states almost $1 billion per year. If Alabama cannot defend its tobacco enforcement, approximately a third of the budget for the state’s Children’s Trust Fund could be lost. There was initial uncertainty over who should be in charge of protecting Alabama against tobacco companies, and state officials are concerned that they have responded too late to successfully defend against the allegations. A binding arbitration hearing will be held in early 2010 with dozens of tobacco companies. Click here for more details.
Colorado Supreme Court upholds ban of smoking onstage (CO)
After three years in court, the Colorado Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of banning smoking onstage during theater performances. Theater groups argued that the state smoking ban infringes upon free speech rights when it is applied to accurate portrayals of smoking in plays; Colorado’s 2006 anti-smoking laws are stricter than those in other states that typically exempt artistic performances. No other state supreme court has decided a case with free-speech opposition to smoking restrictions. Click here to read more, or click here to read the court’s opinion.
Caesars Palace smoking lawsuit dropped, Wynn suit continues (NV)
A lawsuit filed in July seeking an order to force Caesars Palace in Las Vegas to protect its employees from secondhand smoke has been dropped. The class-action suit that would have represented all former, current, and future Caesars employees was dropped because the law firm determined that it could no longer represent the lead plaintiff. The firm plans to file a similar suit against Caesars Palace and its parent company, Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., on the behalf of another unidentified plaintiff. Meanwhile, another secondhand smoke lawsuit against Wynn Las Vegas will continue. Click here to read more. Update: Wynn seeks dismissal of second-hand smoke suit Attorneys for Wynn Las Vegas are seeking the dismissal of a lawsuit filed against them claiming that workers should be protected from secondhand smoke. The casino contends that Wynn is in compliance with the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act, which allows smoking in casinos, and the suit appears to be part of a retaliatory union campaign against Wynn by casino dealers. Click here to read more.
Fall 2009 Legal Update newsletter
The latest issue of the Legal Update, the newsletter of the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium, is now available. This issue features the Legal Consortium's most recent publication, "Infiltration of Secondhand Smoke into Condominiums, Apartments and Other Multi-Unit Dwellings: 2009." This expanded update of the TCLC’s 2004 law synopsis covers recent smoke-free housing laws and policies of interest to landlords, condominium associations and tenants. The Legal Update also includes overviews of recent important tobacco cases, including a landmark Massachusetts tobacco ruling that allows “healthy” smokers to sue to force tobacco companies to pay for medical monitoring to scan for diseases that may develop in the future; a $300 million ruling in the latest individual “Engle progeny” lawsuit against a major tobacco company; and legal actions related to the new federal tobacco product legislation. The newsletter highlights U.S. and Canadian bans on the sale, distribution and manufacture of flavored cigarettes, and the World Health Organization’s tobacco control campaign in Africa. Click here to download the fall 2009 Legal Update.
ANA, 4AS, AAF fight tobacco act
Three major advertising groups have filed an amicus brief with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, arguing that the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act violates the First Amendment and is therefore unconstitutional. The Association of National Advertisers, the American Association of Advertising Agencies and the American Advertising Federation believe that the restrictions would make the advertising of tobacco impossible and could set the precedent to restrict other legal products that could be deemed as harmful to children, such as prescription drugs, alcohol, or R-rated movies. Click here to read more.
Tobacco companies win partial legal victory in Canada (Canada)
The British Columbia Court of Appeal panel overturned a lower court’s ruling that the Canadian federal government could not be drawn in as third party defendant in legal battles associated with the health costs of smoking and the promotion of “light” cigarettes. Tobacco makers claim that the government’s role in developing strains of tobacco used to make “light” or “mild” cigarettes and its decision to keep tobacco legal and collect tax revenue from it make it a partner in tobacco sales. By adding the government as a third party to the cases, the tobacco industry can argue that the government should share responsibility for part of any damages awarded to plaintiffs when the cases go to trial. The government counters that light cigarettes were promoted in good faith to reduce smoking-related harms, and that the tobacco industry failed to inform the public of the dangers of smoking. Click here to read more.
Theater sued for onstage smoking scene (Israel)
Israel’s Haifa District Court has received a request for a class-action suit against a theater for instructing an actress to smoke as part of her role in a play. Those filing the suit, the first of its kind in the world, argue that by allowing smoking in the theater, the audience and the actors performing in the play were exposed to toxins that compromised their health. Because the venue is owned by the city, the plaintiff argued, it should be responsible for enforcing non-smoking laws that have been in place since 1983. The total compensation requested for damages is NIS 4 million, or NIS 1000 per audience member. Click here to read more.
Batsa challenges smoking laws (South Africa)
British American Tobacco South Africa (Batsa) is in court challenging the constitutionality of the Tobacco Products Control Amendment Act enacted last year to ban certain types of tobacco marketing. The company wants the Act amended to allow one-on-one marketing with adult consumers. Batsa’s opponents argue that the company would use the method to advertise to teenagers and young adults using guerrilla marketing, such as hosting smoking parties that make smoking appear to be an exciting and social behavior. Batsa had attempted negotiations with several regulators before filing legal action. Click here to read more.
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