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Judith Wilkenfeld, lawyer in tobacco suits

Judith D. Wilkenfeld, 64, a lawyer who became a specialist on legal issues related to tobacco policy, died of pancreatic cancer May 24 at her home in Washington.

At the Federal Trade Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, and the nonprofit Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Mrs. Wilkenfeld sued tobacco companies, helped enforce federal policies, and played a major role in the negotiation of the international Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

She was the FTC's lead lawyer in the case against Brown & Williamson Tobacco in 1985, the lawsuit that was a catalyst for the first major expose about the ways tobacco companies manipulate their products to deceive the public.

She was also the lead lawyer in a 1990 case brought by the federal government against the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., which challenged tobacco industry advertising that disputed the health risks of smoking. She was instrumental in the FTC decision to sue R.J. Reynolds over the tobacco company's use of cartoon character Joe Camel in its advertising, and in crafting regulations governing health warnings on smokeless tobacco products.

In 1994, Mrs. Wilkenfeld joined the FDA as special adviser for tobacco policy.

She left the government in 1999 to become the vice president of international programs at the nonprofit Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. She was a leader in negotiations of the world's first treaty devoted exclusively to a health issue. The Tobacco Treaty has been ratified by 147 nations, but not the United States.

"Too often in the past, our government has sided with the tobacco companies when they challenged other nation's tobacco control measures as violations of trade agreements," she said in 2005. "US ratification of the treaty would send a strong message to the rest of the world that we will not support these efforts and instead put protection of public health ahead of tobacco industry interests."

A native Washingtonian, she graduated from Brown University and from Indiana University School of Law.

In 1969, after two years on the Indiana University law faculty, she joined the National Labor Relations Board as a staff lawyer in the appellate division, where she tried cases in most of the US Circuit Courts of Appeals. She left in 1977 and moved with her family to Israel, where she taught in the comparative law program at the Hebrew University until the family's return to Washington in 1979.

In 1980, Mrs. Wilkenfeld joined the FTC, where for 14 years she was the program adviser for tobacco, in charge of all tobacco-related matters for the agency, and assistant director for advertising practices in the Bureau of Consumer Protection.

She was a dedicated runner and enjoyed working out.

She leaves her husband of 43 years, Jonathan of Washington; three children, Ari of Washington, Gilad of Takoma Park, Md., and Daniela Wiggins of Washington; a brother; and three grandchildren.

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