You Don't Say? Tobacco & the First Amendment

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Decades ago, the U.S. Supreme Court held that freedom of speech stops at the right to yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater. But does the tobacco industry have the right to basically say "Smoke!" to the American public? The tobacco industry often challenges tobacco control laws and regulations on the grounds that such measures violate its First Amendment right to freedom of speech, and interfere with its ability to communicate information about its products to consumers.  We often think about the First Amendment in terms of protecting the right to talk about one’s political or religious views, or engage in artistic expression. The text of the First Amendment does not say anything about marketing or advertising.  So how did we get to a place where commercial speech, including tobacco marketing, is given substantial First Amendment protection?

In this webinar, our speakers provide an overview of the evolving commercial speech doctrine and explain the different tests that courts apply to laws regulating commercial speech. They highlight First Amendment challenges to tobacco control laws and policies, and discuss the potential impact of recent court rulings on the future of tobacco regulation.

This webinar has already occurred. Please use the resources below:

Webinar Slides [PDF]


  • Ilana Knopf, Director, Center for Public Health & Tobacco Policy
  • Ted Mermin, Executive Director, Public Good Law Center


  • Kate Armstrong, Staff Attorney, Tobacco Control Legal Consortium.