Ad Rules Now Key To National Tobacco Pact

The issue of advertising restrictions took center stage last week as the U.S. Senate attempted to craft legislation based on the national tobacco settlement.
After a day of hearings and a missive from the White House, the Senate leadership came to the conclusion that legislation might well live or die by the nature of the ad restrictions.
“The significance of the tobacco ad restrictions suddenly burst on the consciousness of Congress like a bomb,” said Hal Shoup, executive vice president of the American Association of Advertising Agencies here.
Early last week, Bruce Reed, assistant to the president on domestic policy, wrote to commerce committee chairman Sen. John McCain, stating in part that the ad restrictions written into the national settlement between the state attorneys general and Big Tobacco might be in violation of the First Amendment. Tobacco marketers have made it clear to Congress that they will only agree to ad restrictions if they get some protection from lawsuits. In theory, tobacco companies could tie up any legislation in court with constitutional complaints for years, if their demands are not met.
McCain seemed confused last week at how Congress could include in a bill ad bans that were narrowly tailored enough so as not to be struck down by the courts. Congress is still split on whether to enact restrictions into law, or keep them in the context of a voluntary pact in return for some liability on the part of manufacturers.
“After heavy consultation, the Senate decided to delay markup and build a coalition” in favor of one bill incorporating the concerns of several Senate bills, said Nancy Ives, press secretary to Sen. McCain. Thus, McCain’s bill will probably change dramatically before coming out of committee next week.
“It will take the wisdom of Solomon to craft a piece of legislation that satisfies all constituents,” said Shoup.
McCain, who many say has his eye on the presidency, will likely use this bill as a starting point for his new role as consensus builder.