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Advertising people may be more full of the Christmas spirit this year, anticipating a Republican Congress more friendly to business. One promise from the new majority is to trim down Washington by letting the states do more.

That may make sense in such areas as welfare and healthcare, where flexibility in rules and regulations can lead to more efficient use of tax dollars. But the ad industry must stand ready to defend this principle: Where it's proper to regulate national advertising, that regulation must be national regulation. From Washington.

Witness the net that now snarls RJR Nabisco and the ad agencies connected to the "Joe Camel" campaign for Camel cigarettes. The Federal Trade Commission properly has the job of reviewing these ads for deception and fairness. It has done so. But the state of California, now with the blessing of the U.S. Supreme Court, is taking RJR Nabisco to trial on the same issues.

And a federal appeals court has upheld California's law stringently defining what environmental terms can be used in advertising. More states may follow with their own versions, thus inhibiting national campaigns.

The result of such balkanization is usually little advertising at all on this important subject.

We should urge those Republicans taking control of Congress in January that lean and efficient government also means sensible rules, sensibly enforced. And, for national ads, that means by the national government in Washington, not 50 states. That's as scary as Marley's ghost.

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