FDA releases final rules on tobacco product restrictions
WASHINGTON, D.C.–The Food and Drug Administration in mid-August adopted final rules restricting tobacco advertising and sales to adolescents. Some advertising and media organizations claim the new rules violate the First Amendment.
The new advertising rules prohibit outdoor advertising of tobacco advertising within 1,000 feet of public playgrounds and elementary and secondary schools, and forbid the sale or distribution of promotional items such as sporting goods or caps bearing tobacco-product logos.
The FDA says the rules are designed to “ensure that the access restrictions are not undermined by advertising that heightens the appeal of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco to young people.”
The Freedom to Advertise Coalition, a group of six advertising and publishing organizations, filed suit against the FDA in a Greensboro federal District Court when restrictions were first proposed in 1995. It plans to amend its complaint to encompass the new rules in early September, according to coalition attorney Garret Rasmussen.
Rasmussen said that the FDA must show that the regulations are necessary to achieve the government’s purpose of curbing adolescent smoking in order to justify the limitation on free speech. Advertising is only one of many factors that cause teens to smoke, he said. The non-advertising provisions of the FDA’s regulations, which the coalition does not oppose, should be tried and found inadequate before the government imposes restrictions on commercial speech, Rasmussen added.
Jim O’Hara, an FDA spokesman, said the agency is confident that the advertising regulations are constitutional. The rules are narrowly tailored to achieve FDA objectives and allow advertisers to relay information to adults, O’Hara said. The FDA said the rules are designed to protect children from advertising that could tempt them to start smoking, and to cut teenage smoking in half during the next seven years. (Regulations restricting the sale and distribution of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco to protect children and adolescents)