Supreme Court Takes Tobacco Case

09 January 2001

The US Supreme Court has decided to rule on a case from Massachusetts concerning the curbing of tobacco advertising and promotion.

The original ruling, made in 1999 by Massachusetts attorney general Thomas Reilly, issued a set of regulations banning tobacco give-aways, imposing mandatory warnings on advertising, limiting the number of tobacco ads within 1000 feet of schools, parks or playgrounds and requiring all point-of-purchase ads in the same area to be at least five feet high.

Since Reilly’s regulations, courts in California and New York have ruled against Massachusetts, arguing that federal law takes precedence in the regulation of advertising.

But what is surprising about the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case is that, in addition to questions of pre-emption, it will also consider First Amendment arguments on advertising topics and guidelines for government intervention.

“This is a very significant case,” commented Dan Jaffe, executive vice president of the Association of National Advertisers. “Depending on how it is resolved, it goes to the broader issues of what kind of protections you can provide kids, when advertising is directed to adults.”

Jaffe added that the Supreme Court usually steers clear of pre-emption cases, raising the possibility that it is specifically interested in First Amendment issues. “It's a very complicated case that could have significant impacts outside the tobacco area,” he predicted.

News source: Advertising Age - Daily Deadline