Ban on Outdoor Tobacco Ads Illegal
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Local governments do not have the right to ban outdoor advertisements of tobacco products, a federal court for nine Western states has ruled.
Local bans on outdoor advertising of tobacco products violate federal law, the federal appeals court for nine Western states ruled Friday.On Friday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a 1997 ordinance in Pierce County, south of Seattle, violated a 1969 federal law prohibiting the governments from applying any ``requirement or prohibition based on smoking and health'' to cigarette advertising.
The Pierce County ordinance prohibits all tobacco advertising that can be seen from the street, with the exception of signs outside stores of plain design that list only cigarette prices. Even those signs are banned within 1,000 feet of schools and other areas frequented by minors.
Many cities have similar ordinances, including Los Angeles and Oakland, Calif.
Three other federal appeals courts -- in Richmond, Va., Chicago and New York -- have reached the opposite conclusion, ruling that federal law allows state and local governments to regulate the location of cigarette ads, though not their content.
The U.S. Supreme Court denied review of the 1995 Richmond ruling. But Floyd Abrams, lawyer for two Tacoma, Wash. convenience store owners who challenged the Pierce County ordinance, said the ruling creates a conflict that makes high court review more likely.
County supervisors justified the ordinance as a public health measure, Judge Melvin Brunetti noted in the court's 3-0 ruling. But he said federal law was intended to free tobacco advertisers from inconsistent local regulations, affecting the placement of signs as well as the content of ads.
Allowing local governments to make their own rules ``will place an unjustifiable burden upon a tobacco advertiser to consult local regulations concerning the placement of tobacco advertisements,'' Brunetti said.
The impact of Friday's ruling was lessened by this year's settlement between states and tobacco companies, which agreed to end billboard advertising.