WASHINGTON DC: Impending US legislation, which bans the use of color in some tobacco advertising and curbs promotions, will have little effect on manufacturers who already abide by such rules.

Advertisers, however, fear it is the thin edge of a wedge that could impact adversely on food and alcohol marketing.

The bill will be debated by the US Senate in the fall, amid growing concerns that its enactment will open the floodgates to demands for restrictions on the marketing of other products.

Warns Dick O'Brien, evp of the American Association of Advertising Agencies: "It's a de facto ban on advertising of a legal product, and it gives all of us pause.

"What we must defend is the right of being able to market legal products to the public. If this passes, there will almost certainly be a First Amendment [legal] challenge."

Adds Dan Jaffe, evp of the Association of National Advertisers: "We are concerned about the precedent."

The bill, sponsored by Democrat Edward Kennedy, proposes a ban on color or imagery in tobacco ads in places where 15% of the audience is under 18; it also prescribes type sizes and dimensions for health warnings and limits items to be used in giveaways and sponsorships.

It would also place tobacco regulation in the hands of the Food and Drug Administration.

Anti-smoking lobbyists argue the measures are necessary to prevent marketing to youngsters, but ad groups believe the restrictions are "content-based censorship".

They say such limits are not allowed under free speech laws and accuse the government of illegally "seizing" ad space and compelling speech.

Data sourced from AdAge.com; additional content by WARC staff