Ad Groups Fight Tobacco Act

Three key industry groups have mounted a challenge to new tobacco laws.

The Association of National Advertisers, the American Association of Advertising Agencies and the American Advertising Federation filed a “friend of the court” brief in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.

Filed with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky on Monday, the brief contends that the act violates the First Amendment by restricting free speech.

Signed into law in June, the Tobacco Control Act restricts the sale, marketing and production of tobacco products. Nearly every media outlet that tobacco companies could use to market the legal product is affected. For example, outdoor advertising may not appear within 1,000 feet of elementary or secondary schools; T-shirts promoting tobacco products are banned; all advertising, including direct mail, must use black text on a white background, except in magazines or other periodicals that have 85 percent adult readership.

“The sweeping restrictions would impermissibly and unconstitutionally make it virtually impossible to advertise tobacco, a legal product to adults,” said Dan Jaffe, evp, ANA. “This is the most restrictive advertising legislation ever passed.”

The act could also set a precedent to legislate other products that lawmakers deem children should be protected from, such as prescription drugs, alcohol, and even R-rated movies, video games and music.

“Censorship can become habit-forming. We have also seen proposals to ban or seriously restrict certain food ads and ads for prescription drug products. It is critically important for the advertising community to stand up for the First Amendment rights of all marketers, whenever they are threatened,” Jaffe said.

Nielsen Business Media