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Advertising Cigarettes: Are cigarette ads illegal?

Advertising Cigarettes: Are cigarette ads illegal?

The FDA restricts the way cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products can be advertised and sold, especially to children and teenagers.


According to Howard Koh, the former assistant secretary for health,

“it will prevent our children from becoming the next generation of Americans to die early from tobacco-related illnesses.”


Children are at a higher risk of developing a smoking habit because studies show that 90 percent of smokers began the habit when they were younger than 18.

The FDA also aims to reduce the number of smoking-related illnesses and deaths because according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 450,000 people in the US die from smoking-related illnesses each year.


In addition to a complete ban of advertising tobacco product on TV and Radio by congress, FDA restrictions also include the following:


1) Tobacco companies cannot sponsor sporting and entertainment events.

2) Free cigarette samples cannot be offered, neither can non-tobacco items be offered (giveaways) with the purchase of tobacco.

3)  Cigarettes cannot be sold in packs of fewer than 20 (making it less affordable).

4) Stores can only display tobacco products behind the counter.

5)  Tobacco products in vending machines and self-service displays is restricted to adult-only facilities.

6) Tobacco cannot be sold to children younger than 18 and require photo identification.



    Advertising Cigarettes: Are cigarette ads illegal?


    Does the First Amendment Protect Cigarette Advertising?

    First Amendment:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.


    Again, does the First Amendment Protect Cigarette Advertising?

    Analysts say ‘no’. Not in the case of tobacco advertising or exposure to minors. They believe the actual text of the first amendment (see above) poses a difficult practical problem. It is short and does not quite explain what counts as free speech and freedom. The general understanding is that we have the right to say what we want, as long as it does not infringe on the rights of others, threaten or endanger them.  Therefore, as long as cigarettes are labelled ‘dangerous’, per WHO (world health organization), the first amendment does not protect the rights of tobacco companies and marketing agencies to promote it and make it accessible to minors.

    To conclude, the First Amendment is not an absolute. The government can restrict certain speech(es) that is deemed harmful to the public.





      Layton, Lyndsey. “New FDA Rules Will Greatly Restrict Tobacco Advertising and Sales.” The Washington Post. WP Company, 19 Mar. 2010. Web. 10 June 2017.

      Staff, LII. “First Amendment.” LII / Legal Information Institute. Cornell Law School, 05 Feb. 2010. Web. 10 June 2017.

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