In the US a federal judge upheld a state ban on alcohol advertisements in college newspapers last month, saying that student papers do not have a First Amendment-protected right to advertise age-restricted products to their primarily underage readerships.

 

The newspaper in question is The Cavalier Daily, of the University of Virginia. Federal judge Lauck said that the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control asserted “a substantial interest in combating the serious problem of underage drinking and abusive drinking by college students.” This is enough, she ruled, to limit the papers’ commercial speech.

Virginia state code prohibits alcohol advertisements in college newspapers because they are intended to be primarily distributed to readers under 21. The judge ruled that the ban on alcohol advertising restricts commercial speech, but noted that “commercial speech is regulated in a manner that might be impermissible for noncommercial speech.”

In 2006 two college newspapers filed a lawsuit against the Alcoholic Beverage Control, stating that ad restrictions violate their right to free speech, and cost the newspapers valuable ad revenue.

The college newspapers are funded almost exclusively through ad revenue, according to court documents. And according to court documents, the plaintiffs state to lose approximately $30,000 per year, based on estimated sales of one alcohol advertisement on one-quarter page per issue.

Court documents say that as of Jan. 1, 2007, 36 percent of UVa’s total population and 60 percent of its undergraduate population were not of legal drinking age.

Source: The Daily Progress 09/13/12

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