From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Court Lifts Liquor-Price Ad Ban

Date 15 May 1996 17:20:28

"UNITED METHODIST DAILY NEWS" by SUSAN PEEK on Aug. 11, 1991 at 13:58 Eastern,

Note 2964 by UMNS on May 15, 1996 at 16:18 Eastern (3297 characters).

SEARCH:   Supreme Court, liquor, advertising, tobacco, free speech

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CONTACT:  Joretta Purdue                          250(10-71){2964}
          Washington, D.C.  (202) 546-8722            May 15, 1996

Supreme Court decision lifts ban
on liquor prices in advertising

     WASHINGTON (UMNS) -- A Supreme Court decision regarding
liquor advertising in Rhode Island may have far-reaching
consequences for similar restrictions in other states and for
programs being devised to limit tobacco advertising.
     Announced May 13, the decision itself struck down a Rhode
Island ban on liquor advertising that included listing actual
product prices. The judges ruled that such a ban was a violation
of the free speech guarantee found in the First Amendment to the
     The justices did not agree, however, on the reasoning that
led them to that conclusion, issuing instead four different
opinions that expressed some differences in rationale.
     In the wake of the conclusion, there was speculation about
the effect on the restrictions being developed by the Food and
Drug Administration to limit tobacco product promotion aimed
primarily at young people. 
     Jane Hull Harvey, associate general secretary of the United
Methodist Board of Church and Society, observed that both tobacco
and alcohol are regarded as drugs by the United Methodist Church.
Its position on those substances and promotions targeting young
people are published in the denomination's Book of Resolutions.
     Harvey expressed the hope that the court will rule
differently in cases where the laws being challenged have to do
with targeting ethnic minority groups or young people who are
below the age where they may buy alcohol or tobacco products
     Calling the major tobacco companies "drug pushers" and
comparing them with street corner cocaine dealers, Harvey said
that targeting vulnerable young people with a product that can
injure their health and kill them is "a deeply troubling moral
     Further information on how the court sees tobacco advertising
issues may be revealed in decisions yet to be rendered on two
cases challenging Baltimore's restrictions on outdoor advertising
of cigarettes and beer.
     Although Rhode Island claimed that its prohibition against
price quotes in advertising discouraged consumption, the court's
ruling continued its extension of First Amendment protection to
commercial speech begun in 1970.
     "The First Amendment directs us to be especially skeptical of
regulations that seek to keep people in the dark for what the
government perceives to be their own good," said Justice John Paul
Stevens in writing for the court.
     He also wrote that a state legislature "does not have the
broad discretion to suppress truthful, non-misleading information
for paternalistic purposes." Others who wrote separate opinions
were Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, Antonin Scalia and Clarence
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