SENATE NOW READY TO ACT ON CIGARETTE AD CURB BILLS: KEY COMMITTEES TO DRAFT ACTUAL LEGISLATION BEGINNING THIS WEEK

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Tobacco ad restrictions could begin taking clear shape this week, as Congress finally turns to drafting a new law.

Key Senate committees, after months of hearings, are due to begin voting on the major elements of legislation that could set the direction of cigarette advertising for years to come.

The Senate Labor Committee on March 11 and the Senate Commerce Committee later this month will address bans on outdoor and point-of-purchase advertising and product giveaways; limits on magazine ad content; and other restrictions.

ANTI-SMOKING AD BUDGET

Cigarette pricing and the amount of money to be spent on anti-smoking ads also could see their first Congressional vote as early as this week.

"This could be very important," said Dan Jaffe, exec VP of the Association of National Advertisers. "This is the first time that the Congress is going to try and grapple with the global (tobacco) settlement and decide legislatively how to handle the issues."

Last week, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John McCain (R, Ariz.), in an unusual public colloquy with Federal Trade Commission Chairman Robert Pitofsky, questioned the wisdom and constitutionality of writing any ad restrictions into law.

Republican Senate leaders said the bill to be crafted by Mr. McCain is likely to be the legislation that will proceed to the whole Senate.

Mr. Pitofsky suggested curbs proposed by the Food & Drug Administration, including bans on outdoor signs within 1,000 feet of a school or playground, were constitutional and should be enacted. However, he said there was no way to constitutionally enact bans on using people and cartoons in ads and on all outdoor signs.

`CONSTITUTIONAL CONCERN'

Tobacco makers agreed to those curbs in the pact with state attorneys general in return for liability protection.

Senate Labor Committee Chairman James Jeffords (R, Vt.) also is writing legislation, and it proposes enacting all the restrictions proposed in the attorneys general pact. A vote on his language could come at this week's hearing.

In its most specific statement to date, the Clinton administration last week admitted that tobacco ad restrictions would have to be written tightly, and that legislation going beyond the FDA proposal "raises significant constitutional concern."

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