Below are a selection of articles and publications highlighting issues related to the work of the Public Health Law Watch. Scholarship comes from the portfolios of various members of the George Consortium and are great resources for anyone interested in learning more about the work we do, the issues we explore, and the way in which law and public health work together to make change.


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Micah BermaN
Associate Professor
College of Law andCollege of Public Health
The Ohio State University

Closing the Regulatory Gap for Synthetic Nicotine Products [2018]

  • Despite the 2016 expansion of FDA regulations on tobacco and nicotine delivery systems, the recent emergence of synthetic nicotine products on the consumer market threaten to evade falling within the bounds of such regulatory policy.  This article articulates that the FDA has the right, and is very much faced with the necessity, to regulate synthetic nicotine products in order to combat the participation of non-smokers, and particularly adolescents and young adults,  in high levels of nicotine consumption and the development of subsequent addiction.

  • KEYWORD(S): tobacco, FDA

Praise, Caution and Concern Greet New FDA Tobacco Rules [2016]

  • Public health experts respond to the 2016 announcement from the FDA that tobacco regulations will expand beyond traditional cigarettes to encompass all forms of tobacco related products, including e-cigarettes, cigars, houka, and others.  Despite supporting the decisions, multiple experts explain the possible shortcomings of the policy change and the legal obstacles the tobacco industry will erect in opposition to the ruling.

  • KEYWORD(S): tobacco, FDA

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Richard Daynard
University Distinguished Professor of Law and President, Public Health Advocacy Institute
Northeastern University School of Law

These 26 states won’t let you sue McDonald’s for making you fat. The surprising consequence of banning obesity laws. [2015]

  • Attempts to hold McDonald’s accountable for the rise in American obesity via litigation in the first years of the 21st century resulted in massive lobbying from the food and restaurant industry to grant themselves impunity from such lawsuits, culminating in the passage of “commonsense consumption” laws across 26 states.  This article explore the question of who or what is responsible for the obesity epidemic and what measures might be taken to contain it.

  • KEYWORD(S): obesity

Beyond Cheeseburgers: The Impact of Commonsense Consumption Acts on Future Obesity-Related Lawsuits [2013]

  • Spurred by a growth in public health movements in the early years of the 21st century calling for the fast-food businesses to be held accountable for the rise in obesity, the food industry, fearing affirmative litigation and sharing a similar fate to that of the tobacco industry, proactively lobbied for immunity from such lawsuits.  Given the subsequent passage of Commonsense Consumption Acts across 25 states barring the food industry from civil liability for the dietary health outcomes of their consumers, this paper explores the results of such policy enactment on the contemporary legal landscape in which public health policy now operates.

  • KEYWORD(S): obesity

Application of Law to the Childhood Obesity Epidemic [2007]

  • The prevalence of childhood obesity can be seen as a direct result of health policy, given that law is what shapes the environmental resources determining the habits of an individual in regards to both diet and physical activity.  This paper highlights the legal policies that have shaped the contemporary environment from which obese children have arisen, and further explains how proper policy can effectively work against this epidemic moving forward.

  • KEYWORD(S): obesity

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Jason Smith
Chair and Assistant Professor
Department of Health Sciences
California state university East bay

Climate Change, Public Health, and Policy: A California Case Study [2018]

  • Although the direct impacts of climate change and its effects on human health have been empirically proven by the scientific community for some time now, these significant health implications have only recently begun to be actively considered by policymakers and public health advocates in regards to the drafting of effective counteractive policy.  This article suggests four critical policy principles that provide a framework for the development of policy in the realm of climate change-related issues, utilizing the progressive policy actions of California as a case study.

  • KEYWORD(S): climate change

Law, Stigma, and Meaning: Implications for Obesity and HIV Prevention [2017]

  • Law possesses both the capacity and responsibility to protect against stigma in the provision of healthcare and the development of public health policy.  In juxtaposition to discrimination on the grounds of static characteristics and identities, little previous discussion has been had regarding stigma oriented towards the behavioral decisions of the individual, and therefore this article explores the necessity for policymakers to address and combat such stigma faced by individuals on the basis of their “moral experiences.”

  • KEYWORD(S): stigma, obesity, HIV/AIDS

Application of Law to the Childhood Obesity Epidemic [2007]

  • The prevalence of childhood obesity can be seen as a direct result of health policy, given that law is what shapes the environmental resources determining the habits of an individual in regards to both diet and physical activity.  This paper highlights the legal policies that have shaped the contemporary environment from which obese children have arisen, and further explains how proper policy can effectively work against this epidemic moving forward.

  • KEYWORD(S): obesity