Author Archives: Mark Gottlieb

About Mark Gottlieb

Mark Gottlieb joined the staff of the Public Health Advocacy Institute in 1993 after graduating from Northeastern University School of Law. His efforts have focused on researching tobacco litigation as a public health strategy as director of the Tobacco Products Liability Project, reducing the harm caused by secondhand tobacco smoke through a variety of legal and policy approaches, fostering scholarship using tobacco industry documents, and, more recently, examining legal and policy approaches to address obesity. He is the Executive Director of the Institute and lives in Cambridge, MA with his wife and three children.

And the mass shootings continue

It is very sad that municipal leaders need to think about – not if – but when a mass shooting occurs, how should my community prepare, respond, and recover? PHAI’s UnitedOnGuns Initiative has the resources to help mayors and city managers to be ready for these tragedies. These include a Mass Shooting Protocol and Mass Shooting Playbook.

The Protocol is a four-page overview of a mayor’s role during the first 24 hours after a mass shooting. The Playbook is a 200-page resource guide informed by the recommendations and experience of mayors who have responded to a mass shooting.

UnitedOnGuns’ Director, Sarah Peck, was interviewed about these resources on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered on May 21, 2022 regarding the mass shooting in Buffalo, NY and on May 26, 2022 in the wake of the mass murders in the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

Admittedly, these resources produced by PHAI will not solve any of the structural problems that cause mass shootings, but they can help communities to be prepared and to mitigate some of the horror of these all too common events.

PHAI’s Sarah Peck Publishes Op-Ed on Long-Term Impact of Pulse Nightclub Shooting

Pulse Victims

In an op-ed published today in the Orlando Sentinel, Sarah Peck, director of PHAI’s #UnitedOnGuns initiative along with Northeastern Professor James Alan Fox consider the impact of lingering trauma from the horrific Pulse Nightclub shooting, which occurred 5 years ago on June 12, 2016.

Peck and Fox note that the psychological toll on survivors, families, first responders, and others in the community is substantial and long-lasting. Recovery requires time and resources. Unfortunately, Florida Governor DeSantis has slashed funding for families and survivors of the attach who are in need of recovery services. These needs are not only relevant to the Pulse Shooting survivors and families, but to those of all mass shootings.

In many ways, the recovery response of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer has been a model, but continued funding is needed to assist with recovery services that are still needed more than five years after such a traumatic and tragic event.

Read the full op-ed here.

PHAI’s Sarah Peck Looks at Suicide Prevention as a Way to Reduce Mass Shootings in Op-Ed

PHAI’s Sarah Peck, director of #UnitedOnGuns, along with James Alan Fox, the Lipman Professor of Criminology, Law and Public Policy at Northeastern University, published an opinion piece in the Mercury News of San Jose, where a tragic public mass shooting at a light rail yard resulted in 10 deaths, including a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the shooter. Peck and Fox note that public mass shootings almost inevitably involve suicidal ideation on the part of the shooter.  They write that this fact, “provides hope that some of these horrific crimes can be prevented by focusing specifically on suicide prevention.”

In fact, focusing on suicide prevention may be the most effective way to reduce death caused by guns in the U.S. as nearly 2 out of 3 gun deaths are the result of suicides. In the various gun narratives, this is hardly a dominant theme.  Nor it the fact, pointed out by the authors, that, “the risk a household member will commit suicide is increased threefold when there is a gun in the home.” Peck and Fox recommend 2 policies to help reduce gun-involved suicides.

1) Temporarily remove a firearm when a household member is in crisis, and

2) Safely secure handguns and long guns bought for sport or protection, especially if there is a minor in the home.

The first of these policies is known as a “red flag” law or “extreme risk protection order” (ERPO).  Evidence to date suggests that ERPO laws may, indeed, help to reduce suicide. Guns as, by far, the most effective means of successfully carrying out a suicide attempt. Research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that while, overall the 8.5% of suicide attempts result in death, 89.7% of suicide attempts involving guns are lethal. Safe storage of guns have been found to reduce gun-related injuries and death.

Read the commentary here.

After FDA’s Menthol Announcement, PHAI’s Gottlieb and Daynard Consider Next Steps

 

In an op-ed published today in the Boston Globe, a day in which FDA announced it’s intention to issue regulations to ban menthol cigarettes, PHAI’s executive director and president consider what the next steps in tobacco prevention should be.

Gottlieb and Daynard suggest that:

  1. The FDA should also remove menthol flavored e-cigarettes from the market.  If these products, favored by youth, are on the market to help menthol smokers switch to e-cigarettes, this will not be necessary once menthol cigarettes are gone.
  2. Nicotine must be carefully regulated so that cigarettes are no longer addictive.  The evidence is that very low nicotine cigarettes will help smokers to quit and will not result in them increasing smoking to compensate.
  3. The nicotine strength in American e-cigarettes is more than double the maximum allowed in Europe.  There is no public health rationale for e-cigarettes to be this addictive and the FDA should regulate them accordingly.
  4. Finally, the end of the public health crisis caused by tobacco industry products will only come when we plan to phase out their sales entirely to establish a tobacco-free generation.  Brookline, Massachusetts is the first community in the nation to approve this policy and is poised to prohibit sales of any tobacco products to anyone born on or before January 1, 2000. This slow phase-out is a reasonable and permanent way sunset these lethal and addictive products permanently. It should be widely adopted.

UnitedOnGuns’ Sarah Peck and Northeastern’s James Alan Fox Consider Federal Policy to Help Mayors Deal with Mass Shootings

In an op-ed published today in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Sarah Peck, director of PHAI’s #UnitedOnGuns initiative along with Northeastern Professor James Alan Fox take a very practical approach to help mayors respond to mass shooting events, which have become all too common. While federal legislation mandating universal background checks and other measures remain trapped in political gridlock, local mayors continue to be called upon to respond to mass shootings in their communities. In addition to the physical and emotional tolls that such an event may cause, mayors soon learn that the financial costs of responding to such a tragedy can be immense.

Peck and Fox make specific recommendations:

We urge the president to support Mr. Weaver [Mayor of Boulder] and all the mayors who will follow him by: (1) establishing an emergency fund for cities to cover the full cost of responding to a mass public shooting with management and oversight from FEMA or another appropriate agency; (2) providing mental health services for police officers and other first responders; and (3) creating training for mayors and other city managers to prepare for, respond to, and assist their communities to recover from a mass shooting.

PHAI Takes Action Against Puff Bar for Violating Massachusetts’ Ban on Flavored e-Cigarettes

CONTACTS:

Mark Gottlieb                                                             Meredith Lever
(617) 216-0779                                                            (617) 373-8066
mark@phaionline.org                                          meredith@phaionline.org

 

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 Puff Bar Charged With Violating Massachusetts’ Ban on Flavored e-Cigarettes
In direct violation of state law, Puff Bar sells flavored, disposable e-cigarettes that appeal to teens

 BOSTON, MA (June 11, 2020) – Today, the Public Health Advocacy Institute (PHAI) at Northeastern University School of Law initiated action against Puff Bar and Cool Clouds Distribution, Inc., the makers and distributors of flavored, disposable Puff Bar e-cigarettes.

In its claim letter, PHAI alleges that Puff Bar e-cigarettes are sold in Massachusetts in clear violation of a November 2019 state law that prohibits the sale of all flavored e-cigarettes. Puff Bar has become extremely popular, eclipsing JUUL as the favored vape product among young people.

The claim is brought on behalf of 22-year old Juliana Larson of Medford and 33-year old Juliana Shulman-Laniel of Boston, both acting as testers for PHAI. In April, both testers purchased a flavored Puff Bar online through puffbar.com and had the product mailed to their homes in Massachusetts. The package was left at each tester’s doorstep without obtaining a signature.

“Apparently Puff Bar and Cool Clouds Distribution thought that nobody would notice or care that they have been selling flavored e-cigarettes here in blatant violation of Massachusetts law,” said Mark Gottlieb, Executive Director of PHAI. “We care and we will put a stop to it.”

According to PHAI, the sale and shipment of flavored Puff Bar e-cigarettes to Larson and Shulman-Laniel not only violated the state’s 2019 ban on flavored e-cigarettes, it also defied a Massachusetts Attorney General regulation that requires a delivery of e-cigarettes to be made only with a verified adult signature – two laws that aim to safeguard minors from dangerous products, such as Puff Bar e-cigarettes.

The claim also outlines multiple ways Puff Bar is being marketed to youth. A recent Puff Bar advertisement targeted youth and evoked coronavirus stay-at-home orders, stating: “We know that the inside-vibes have been . . . quite a challenge. Stay sane with Puff Bar this solo-break . . . . It’s the perfect escape from the back-to-back zoom calls, parental texts and WFH stress.”

Puff Bars are sold in 24 different flavors, including “blueberry ice,” “sour apple,” “strawberry donut,” and “mint chip” – flavors that make Puff Bars easily inhalable and attractive to teens. Puff Bar is designed to be sleek, cute, and discreet – appearing less like a nicotine delivery device and more like a harmless, fun accessory. At first glance, a Puff Bar may appear simply to be a USB drive, a design that enables young people to use Puff Bar devices surreptitiously without parents, teachers, or other adults knowing. As a disposable product, Puff Bar is also simple to use and relatively inexpensive – two features that make youth initiation especially easy.

“Puff Bar has recently flooded the e-cigarette market with a product that is designed and marketed to addict young people,” said Dick Daynard, President of the Public Health Advocacy Institute. “Puff Bar and Cool Clouds are selling Puff Bar products in Massachusetts in clear violation of state law, and we want to ensure that these dangerous products are no longer accessible to Massachusetts kids and teens.”

This claim is brought amidst a rising wave of national concern about Puff Bar products, including calls from Congress to close a federal loophole that has allowed for the proliferation of Puff Bar products amidst a nationwide ban on most e-cigarette flavors. The Massachusetts law, however, bans the sale of all flavored tobacco products with very limited exceptions.

If PHAI’s claim prevails, Puff Bar and Cool Clouds Distribution, Inc. will be required to cease their illegal sale of flavored Puff Bar e-cigarettes in Massachusetts.

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The Public Health Advocacy Institute (PHAI) is a non-profit legal research center focused on public health law located at Northeastern University School of Law. In 2014, PHAI formed the Center for Public Health Litigation, a nonprofit law firm, which uses the civil justice system to improve public health by focusing on litigation targeting tobacco industry products, unhealthy foods, deceptive health marketing, and deceptive gambling practices.

 See the claim letter at claim letter at https://www.phaionline.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/2020.6.11-Puff-Bar-93A-Letter-final.pdf

PHAI’s Sarah Peck pens op-ed urging a stop to active shooter drills in schools

Sarah Peck, Director of PHAI’s #UnitedOnGuns initiative, recently authored an opinion piece published by the South Florida Sun Sentinel entitled: Profiting from protecting kids is wrong. Halt active shooter drills in schools. In it, Ms. Peck raises the concern, shared by many, that active shooter drills in schools can traumatize children.  She notes that 42 states have passed laws mandating these school drills and that a $3 billion industry has emerged to support implementation of these laws.

Such drills produced by for-profit companies are often designed to be realistic and may feature the sounds of gunshots and even the use of fake blood.  Ms. Peck shared one particularly disturbing example:

In one recent drill, teachers were lined up against a wall and shot — execution-style — with plastic bullets.

Such trauma-inducing practices are unacceptable in our schools, according to Ms. Peck.  The key, she maintains, is prevention, and she cites a program called “know the signs” as an example of an approach that may help identify kids in crisis who might pose a risk.

PHAI’s Sarah Peck pens op-ed supporting a federal “red flag” law

Sarah Peck, Director of PHAI’s #UnitedOnGuns initiative, recently authored an opinion piece published by The Hill entitled: A federal red flag law would save lives and give Trump a much needed win.  Ms. Peck notes that both red and blue states have enacted some version of these laws, also known as “extreme risk protection orders.”

The piece notes that “passing a federal red flag law could save lives if these incentives have the desired effect, especially in red states where gun deaths tend to be higher as a percentage of the population than in blue states.”  Ms. Peck stated that one study found that for every 10 risk orders issued, at least one suicide was prevented.

Read the full piece here.  It was published on November 17, 2019.

PHAI’s Gottlieb Pens Commentary: “How The Opioid Settlement Could Truly Help The Addicted”

On July 9, 2019. the WBUR (Boston NPR affiliate) opinion blog, Cognoscenti, published an opinion piece penned by PHAI’s executive director seeking to leverage any forthcoming settlement of the the more than 2,000 lawsuits pending against opioid pain manufacturers, their distributors, and their retailers to create an independent foundation to help coordinate a national response to the opioid epidemic.

The commentary, along with an amicus brief by PHAI and other public health organizations submitted to the court overseeing the litigation, considers the public health experience with the Master Settlement Agreement between the states and cigarette companies in 1998. It resulted in large payments from the settling defendants to the states that sued them. But those funds have not been adequately invested to develop the public health interventions and infrastructure needed to minimize the addiction, disease, and death caused by tobacco products.

While it is obviously important for the plaintiffs to recover damages as part of a settlement, the commentary urges that a portion of the settlement should be used to create a national foundation to fund local addiction recovery, provide overdose reversal medication, education, and fostering of promising demonstration projects. Such a foundation should also serve as a watchdog for the opioid medication and addiction treatment industries.

In the face of a crisis, no public health opportunity to address it should be squandered.

These Youth Will Not be Fuuled: An overview of the 2019 Altria Group Annual shareholders Meeting

By Edward L. Sweda, Jr., PHAI Senior Attorney

Howard A. Willard III, chairman and CEO of Altria Group
Howard A. Willard III

Five months before Howard A. Willard III presided for the first time over the Altria Group annual shareholders meeting in Richmond, Virginia, the company carried out a business plan that dominated the discussion at the meeting. On December 20, 2018, Altria Group announced it had spent $12.8 billion to purchase a 35% share of San Francisco-based Juul Labs, Inc. While that expenditure was not enough to buy an outright controlling interest in the company, it was more than enough to provide major controversy throughout the one-hour shareholders meeting on the morning of May 16, 2019.

Willard, Altria’s chairman and Chief Executive Officer, called 2018 a “strong year for the core tobacco business” and touted the JUUL investment, couching it as having been done to provide JUUL to adult smokers.
2018 was also a year that saw a dramatic surge in youth use of e-cigarettes, including JUUL. According to the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey, current e-cigarette use among middle and high school students rose dramatically between 2017 and 2018, with over 3.6 million young people currently using e-cigarettes in 2018. This marked a stark reversal of downward trends of such use in previous years.

In the shareholder meeting’s question and answer session, this author noted that, since the December purchase, “a federal class action lawsuit has been filed in Sarasota County, Florida, on behalf of a girl and her parents accusing JUUL of intentionally targeting teenagers for addiction and falsely denying doing so. The lawyers are using Florida’s anti-racketeering statute, alleging the company committed fraud, product liability and deceptive trade practices. In late April, the Public Health Advocacy Institute (for which I work) sent a demand letter to JUUL on behalf of three youths in Massachusetts. The three of them have become addicted to nicotine by using JUUL, and allege a violation of the state Consumer Protection Act. Specifically, the allegations involve breach of the implied warranty of merchantability regarding the design of the product to addicting non-smoking minors and also unfair marketing to teenagers.

“And the plaintiffs here are seeking the establishment of a program for the prevention and treatment of nicotine addiction in young people who use JUUL. And then, of course, just yesterday, the North Carolina Attorney General, Josh Stein, sued JUUL, saying that it had misrepresented the potency and danger of nicotine in its products. He is seeking injunctive relief, the disgorgement of profits and limiting some of the flavors used by JUUL.
“So my question is, what specific steps will Altria Group take to protect its $12.8 billion investment in JUUL by making JUUL less vulnerable to lawsuits of this type?”

Willard responded by acknowledging that, in December, Altria was aware of litigation against JUUL. Then he gave the standard assurance that “we are very committed to helping address the increase in e-vapor use and to encourage JUUL to make sure that their marketing is only to adult cigarette smokers.”

Another shareholder approached the issue of the $12.8 billion investment in JUUL from a different angle. Dr. Andrew Kramer cited three major criticisms of the deal “One that we paid too much. Two, more often, to me, is that here’s no path to control. And lastly, we’re restricted from distributing any other nicotine vaping systems that limits our – that prohibits our ability to build a diversified portfolio in that space.” Willard rejected Kramer’s analysis, calling the deal a “very attractive investment” for Altria.

Jonathan Chafee of Cattaraugus County, New York, asked why Altria had changed its position on raising the purchase age for tobacco products to 21 from two years earlier, when then-CEO Martin Barrington had said that local laws to raise the age to 21 would not help prevent youth use of tobacco because they would just travel to a community without such a law. Willard justified that switch in position by noting the rapid increase in youth use of e-vapor products in 2018.

Olivia Lang of New York asked what Altria sees as its ethical obligation to help their customers make better informed decisions about using products that harm their health. Willard cited the company’s “significant opportunity with products like IQOS and the new e-vapor products like JUUL to convert adult cigarette smokers down the risk continuum.”

Two shareholder resolutions were presented. The first one, supported by Sister Nora Nash, a sister of St. Francis of Philadelphia, called on Altria Group to disclose publicly the nicotine levels of the company’s cigarette brands. Sr. Nash said that “Altria needs to hear the calls of the thousands of people who will die this year from the horrible effects of smoking cigarettes and other products.”

The second resolution was presented by Cathy Rowan the director of socially responsible investments for Trinity Health and a member of the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility. It called for a report on Altria’s policy and procedures governing direct and indirect lobbying, the company’s payments for such lobbying, Altria’s membership in and payments to any tax-exempt organization that endorses model legislation and a description of Altria’s oversight of this activity.

The first resolution garnered 3.9% YES votes, while the second resolution got 27.9% YES votes.

Young people from New York and Nebraska attended the meeting while many more were outside the Richmond Convention Center, chanting slogans such as “People Over Profits” and holding signs with messages including “We will not be FUULed! 1 Pod = 1 Pack”, “Who do you think these flavors are targeting? Fruit Medley” and ”13 is the average age of a new smoker.” Approximately 85 teen leaders came to Richmond to confront Altria Group management over the company’s outrageous conduct.
The youth who came to Richmond for this meeting were able to see through the multi-billion dollar corporate smokescreen and returned to their communities with the powerful messages they delivered to the management of Altria Group, Inc.