Corporate speech and the Constitution: the deregulation of tobacco advertising

Am J Public Health. 2002 Mar;92(3):352-5. doi: 10.2105/ajph.92.3.352.


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.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Advertising / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Civil Rights / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Commerce / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Consumer Product Safety
  • Deception
  • Humans
  • Massachusetts
  • Persuasive Communication
  • Public Health / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Smoking Prevention*
  • Social Control, Formal
  • Social Values
  • Speech
  • Tobacco Industry / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • United States