PHAI Online - The Public Health Advocacy Institute




Key Issues

Massachusetts Tobacco Litigation

Two rulings by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court – Haglund v. Philip Morris and Evans v. Lorillard — have made Massachusetts the best state in the nation to hold cigarette makers legally responsible for the decades of damage they have done to smokers. The Center is working with the families of ailing and deceased smokers to identify and pursue new tobacco litigation in Massachusetts. Click here for more information about tobacco litigation.

Dangers of E-Cigarettes

Using e-cigarettes (sometimes referred to as “vaping”) is not the risk-free alternative to smoking cigarettes that many people think it is.  In 2016, vaping will be banned in the Netherlands for anyone under the age of 18 due to the health risks.  Recent studies have found detectable levels of formaldehyde and the industrial toxin diacetyl in the smoke or flavoring of e-cigarettes, and PHAI would like to hear from users of e-cigarettes who are concerned about the risks posed by these toxins.

False Marketing of Dietary Supplements

Dietary supplements send over 23,000 people to the hospital every year, according to a 2015 study by the federal Centers for Disease Control. Some of those injured are young people taking weight-loss and energy supplements. Others are lured to supplements by claims that the supplements will, for example, improve memory or fortify the digestive system, when there is little or no scientific evidence to support these claims. The Center is currently investigating several cases where supplement manufacturers have made claims of effectiveness that are completely unsupported.

Marketing Unhealthy Foods as “Healthy”

Building on PHAI’s influential research on the marketing of unhealthy foods to children, the Center has begun pursuing claims of unfair and deceptive sales practices against Big Food.  Among its targets are:

  • Foods and soft drinks that are being marketed as “healthy” or “natural,” such as juice boxes labeled as containing “100% natural flavors” that actually contain less than 2% fruit juice
  • “Copycat snacks” – healthier versions of popular junk foods – that are being promoted to children in schools, but then rarely made available in stores, where only the regular junk food is sold
  • Deceptive “digital” marketing of junk foods to children through misleading advertising embedded in video games, digital sweepstakes, and mobile apps

Deceptive Tanning Claims

Tanning studios are deceptively telling customers that indoor tanning sessions are “healthy for you … REALLY” and claiming that indoor tanning “protects against” cancer, when in fact it can cause skin cancer.  There are a number of similarities between the tanning and tobacco industries in how they operate and cast doubt on valid science and the harm their products can cause.  Have you or a family member been misled by these claims?

Copyright 2003-2019 Public Health Advocacy Institute (PHAI) at
Northeastern University School of Law