WASHINGTON, D.C.–The Food and Drug administration, acting at the direction of President Clinton, in early August proposed rules that declare cigarettes a drug, ban underage smoking and sharply restrict tobacco advertising that is geared to attracting teenagers. Published in the Federal Register with the proposed rules is a lengthy report detailing both the harmful effects of tobacco and the vulnerability of children to cigarette advertising.
Under the rules, children under 18 would not be able to purchase cigarettes.
Advertising and labeling to which children and adolescents would be exposed would be limited to text only. Outdoor advertising and give-away clothing bearing cigarette logos would be sharply curtailed. In addition, cigarette manufacturers would be required to maintain a national public education campaign aimed at children to counter the “pervasive imagery” and “reduce the appeal created by decades of pro- tobacco messages.”
Lawmakers have introduced numerous bills over the past several sessions of Congress to curb tobacco advertising. First Amendment advocates have repeatedly testified against those bills saying that Congress should not ban speech about a legal activity.
The Wall Street Journal quoted President Clinton as saying “It cannot be a violation of the freedom of speech in this country to say that you cannot advertise to entice people to do something which they cannot legally do.”
The government is being sued over the proposals both by the tobacco industry and by major advertising trade groups. Coyne Beahm, a small advertising agency in Colfax, N.C., has joined the tobacco industries in their suit. (Federal Register, Aug. 11, 1995)
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