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Am J Public Health. 2002 Mar;92(3):352-5.

Corporate speech and the Constitution: the deregulation of tobacco advertising.

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Center for Law and the Public's Health, Georgetown University Law Center, 600 New Jersey Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20001, USA.


In a series of recent cases, the Supreme Court has given businesses powerful new First Amendment rights to advertise hazardous products. Most recently, in Lorillard Tobacco Co v Reilly (121 SCt 2404 [2001]), the court invalidated Massachusetts regulations intended to reduce underage smoking. The future prospects for commercial speech regulation appear dim, but the reasoning in commercial speech cases is supported by only a plurality of the court. A different First Amendment theory should recognize the importance of population health and the low value of corporate speech. In particular, a future court should consider the low informational value of tobacco advertising, the availability of alternative channels of communication, the unlawful practice of targeting minors, and the magnitude of the social harms.

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