Tobacco


Issue
In part of a multifaceted attack on the tobacco industry, opponents of tobacco use have attempted to severely restrict, or entirely ban, tobacco advertising.

AAF Position
We believe in the right to truthfully advertise legal products to appropriate audiences and oppose efforts to restrict such advertising. The U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed that truthful commercial speech enjoys the free speech protections of the First Amendment. This includes speech about disfavored products. The government’s right to ban a product does not give it the right to ban speech about the product. Censorship is contagious. The AAF does not oppose agreements made between the tobacco industry and state attorneys general limiting advertising, as long as the restrictions remain voluntary and not codified into law. Bans on advertising for one product or service inevitably will lead to bans on advertising for others. We support current regulation of tobacco products.

Opposition
Critics of tobacco advertisements contend the ads compel minors to smoke and thus should be banned.

Legislation
S. 625: The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, introduced by HELP Committee Chairman Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., would direct the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to publish an interim rule with sweeping restrictions resulting in a de facto ban on tobacco advertising. Additionally, the bill would allow labeling requirements on tobacco ads and grant state and local governments authority to impose “specific bans or restrictions on the time, place and manner” of tobacco ads. The Senate HELP Committee approved the measure in July 2007, but the full Senate has not considered the bill.

In the past Congress, a provision of a bill (S. 1074), introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, would have eliminated the tax deductibility of tobacco advertising. It is very possible that Sen. Harkin will reintroduce this bill in the current Congress.

Updates


May 16, 2008: The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee has approved a bill that would effectively prohibit cigarette marketing terms such as "ultralight" and "low-tar." S. 2685, introduced by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., would ban the current testing methodology used by the Federal Trade Commission.

August 1, 2008: The House has approved H.R. 1108, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. The bill would and require all tobacco ads to be black text on a white background, except in certain print media with an adult audience, and would ban all outdoor tobacco advertising within any elementary or secondary school or playground.

Last updated: September 2008

Return to the Position Statements main page.