Tobacco Advertising

What are you smoking??? Laws and rules on tobacco, marijuana and e-cigarette ads

Can my station run an ad for a store named “The Cigaret Shopper”? This is probably a violation of federal law. The very name of this store promotes cigarettes, and the name cannot be left out of ads because of the FCC’s rule on sponsorship identification. Governing federal statutes concerning tobacco advertising are the Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act of 1970 (amended 1973) and the Comprehensive Smokeless Tobacco Health Education Act of 1986. See this BroadcastLawBlog advisory for more details. Trying to wiggle around the ban on cigarette advertising by leaving out the name of the store is a violation of the FCC’s sponsor identification rule.

So what can and can’t be advertised? It is permissible to advertise cigars, pipe tobacco, and smoking accessories such as lighters and rolling papers. The advertising of cigarettes, little cigars, and smokeless tobacco, such as chewing tobacco and snuff, is prohibited.

United States Code Title 15, Chapter 36, ยง 1335: Unlawful advertisements on medium of electronic communication. After January 1, 1971, it shall be unlawful to advertise cigarettes and little cigars on any medium of electronic communication subject to the jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Commission.

The Comprehensive Smokeless Tobacco Health Education Act of 1986 extended the broadcast advertising ban to smokeless tobacco products.

What about advertising “e-cigarettes,” electronic or vapor cigarettes? A qualified yes, for now, according to this legal advisory from Pillsbury (scroll to the bottom). The federal government is under pressure to regulate e-cigarettes out of concern that they are becoming a “gateway” drug for children and teenagers. This area of law could change rapidly.

What about advertising marijuana? While it has been legalized in some states for medicinal or recreational use, marijuana is still an illegal substance in the eyes of the federal government. And, since broadcasters are federal licensees, it’s probably not a wise idea to become the “test case” for resolving the conflict between federal and state law. See this law blog entry for more details.

Disclaimer: This website is intended to provide general guidance only. Stations should consult with their own legal counsel regarding the facts and circumstances of a particular advertising question or issue.