Five advertising industry groups filed suit in federal district court last week, challenging the constitutionality of the tobacco ad ban passed by the New York City Council and signed into law by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
Mayor Giuliani signed the bill last Wednesday, even though he had publicly said that the law would certainly be vulnerable to constitutional challenges and that he favored a less restrictive version. The ban outlaws tobacco ads within 1,000 feet of schools and playgrounds.
Ad lobbyists acknowledged that R.J. Reynolds Tobacco documents revealed last week would certainly fuel public support for more tobacco ad bans in the U.S. Some RJR internal memos detail marketing efforts aimed at 14-18 year olds. The 81 documents also include marketing surveys, memos to RJR board members and reports by ad agencies on how to capitalize on the youth market.
"I'm fearful that more people will develop the attitude that, in the case of cigarettes, the constitution doesn't matter" said Dan Jaffe, senior vice president of the Association of National Advertisers, one of the groups challenging the New York ban.
The ANA, American Advertising Federation, American Association of Advertising Agencies and Outdoor Advertising Association of America joined with the Greater New York Metropolitan Food Council, a retail trade group, to fight Giuliani. First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams is representing the ad coalition.
"There is no questions about the power of the government to stop specific ads targeting kids," said Jaffe. "But that's not what most of these bans that have surfaced do; they set up a wall against all outdoor tobacco advertising, and that has to be unconstitutional."