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By Published on .

An city ordinance that represents one of the country's toughest curbs on tobacco and alcoholic beverage advertising was initially upheld by a U.S. District judge.

The Oakland, Calif., law effectively bans almost all outdoor boards for such products in the city.

Judge Fern Smith, of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, on Sept. 1 rejected a request from Eller Media Co. and Outdoor Systems for a preliminary injunction against the ordinance, which has been in effect since June.


The judge ruled the city's regulation of commercial speech is permissible and that it's sufficiently narrow, since it aims at only one kind of advertising and only certain sites.

The media companies said Oakland's ordinance is stricter than a similar one in Baltimore that was upheld by an appellate court and left standing by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Baltimore bars signs in residential areas but allows them in stadium and industrial areas.

The Oakland ordinance allows boards only in industrial areas if the ads are not within 1,000 feet of a school, park, church or daycare facility.

Eller and Outdoor Systems said the regulation limits alcoholic beverage and tobacco ads to just 6% of the outdoor boards in the city.

The two have focused their attack on the alcoholic-beverage part of the ad ban.


Their suit contended the ordinance unconstitutionally restricts commercial speech, that it isn't a narrowly tailored rule, that it violates state law and that there's no proof that advertising causes any increase in underage drinking.

Rex Heinke, an attorney for the two companies, said the outdoor companies will go ahead with a trial on the factual issues in this case.

The judge did issue a preliminary injunction against the city's using the outdoor ordinance to restrict giveaways of brochures, saying that kind of speech can be non-commercial.

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