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Mounting milestones for New England Law’s young academic center

Center for Public Health and Tobacco Policy has national impact

(Boston, 9/24/12)  New England Law | Boston: Restricting tobacco promotion–and now boosting cancer screenings–are primary targets for the work of New England Law | Boston’s youngest academic center, the Center for Public Health and Tobacco Policy. Housed within the law school’s Center for Law and Social Responsibility, the center was started in 2009 with the largest grant in the law school’s history. The funding came from the New York State Department of Health (NYDOH) to serve that state’s tobacco control community; since then, the center has received additional funding from Vermont, which it also currently serves.
Tobacco center staff at national conference, 2012. Center staff participate in national conference, (L-R): Ilana Knopf, assistant director; Kerry Snyder, senior staff attorney; Micah Berman, director; and Whitney Dodds '11, staff attorney.

Cancer prevention funding

In July the center received funding for a new public-health initiative, a $137,000 grant from NYDOH to research and develop model policies to advance New York State’s cancer prevention program. “Basically we will be looking at policy options to make the state’s cancer prevention programs more effective,” says Professor Micah Berman, the center’s director and a nationally recognized authority on tobacco control law. “It’s the center’s first move beyond tobacco regulation,” he notes, “so that is really exciting for us and broadens our scope.”
 
Aimed at reducing the incidence of breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer, the prevention program promotes healthy behaviors and provides screening and follow-up for underinsured and uninsured residents. Forty-thousand American women die from breast cancer each year, and colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths among cancers that affect both men and women.
 
The cancer-prevention grant follows on the heels of a major accomplishment of the center’s tobacco control work last spring.

Community ordinance restricted tobacco displays

After adopting a first-in-the-nation law to prohibit tobacco displays in retail stores, Haverstraw, New York, was poised to implement the ordinance, which was based on a model policy developed by the center. The ordinance was rescinded over the summer, however, after seven tobacco manufacturers, led by Philip Morris, filed suit against the town.
 
“While the tobacco industry’s threat of litigation succeeded in intimidating this small village,” says Berman, “Haverstraw’s ordinance is likely to inspire other communities to consider similar action.”  Prominent tobacco product displays, such as those seen at checkout counters, are a primary means of enticing new users, he says, adding that 90 percent of those new users are minors.
 
The center’s report, “Cause and Effect: Tobacco Marketing Increases Youth Tobacco Use,” provides policy options that local communities can use to address tobacco marketing. It was distributed at the National Conference on Tobacco or Health in Kansas City in August. Berman and center staff members Ilana Knopf and Kerry Snyder were among the presenters at the conference, which attracted more than 3,000 attendees, including Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin.


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