First Amendment

Challenge Likely for Law Limiting Tobacco Ads to Black-and-White Text

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Tobacco advertisers would likely rather fight than switch their advertising efforts.

Congress passed a law last week that requires print advertising in stores and many publications to contain only black-and-white text. Critics say the restriction will interfere with legitimate communication to adults, the New York Times reports. A second restriction banning outdoor tobacco advertising within 1,000 feet of schools and playgrounds has been criticized as effectively banning billboards in many cities.

President Obama has vowed to sign the legislation; the ad restrictions would take effect about a year later.

Daniel Jaffe, executive vice president of the Association of National Advertisers, told the Times the law creates serious First Amendment problems. “Anybody looking at this in a fair way would say the effort here is not just to protect kids, which is a substantial interest of the country, but to make it virtually impossible to communicate with anybody,” he said.

In 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Massachusetts law on First Amendment grounds that restricted outdoor advertising in virtually the same manner as the federal legislation, according to the story.

University of Maryland law professor Kathleen Dachille, who is director of the Legal Resource Center for Tobacco Regulation, Litigation and Advocacy, told the Times that the 2001 case turned on a lack of evidence showing a link between tobacco marketing and youth smoking. She says the evidence is stronger now.

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