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Although a democracy is based on freedom of expression, most people recognize the need...

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kristenmarieb... | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted May 18, 2013 at 2:23 PM via web

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Although a democracy is based on freedom of expression, most people recognize the need to allow the government to exercise control over such things as false and misleading advertisements or advertisements of illegal products.  Is the banning of cigarette advertising on television consistent with these necessities?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 18, 2013 at 2:45 PM (Answer #1)

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No, the banning of cigarette advertising on television is not consistent with these particular necessities.  It may still be a good thing to ban cigarette ads on TV, but not for these reasons.

The question gives three reasons for regulating speech.  These are the need to ban false statements, the need to ban misleading statements, and the need to ban advertisements for illegal products.  Cigarette ads do not fall foul of these reasons, or they do not do so any more than ads for all kinds of other products.  Cigarettes are not illegal.  Therefore, the need to regulate ads for illegal substances cannot apply to them.  Cigarette ads are not necessarily false or misleading any more than ads for other things are.  The old “Marlboro Man” ads seemed to imply that people who smoke Marlboros are rugged and independent like the cowboys of old.  Of course that is ridiculous, but it is no more ridiculous than the idea that wearing a certain kind of deodorant will make you much more attractive to other people.  All ads are misleading to some degree.

Thus, these are not good reasons for banning cigarette ads.  It may well be good to ban such ads, but it is not for these reasons.  Instead, we would have to argue that the need for public health is more important than the need for absolute freedom of expression with regard to commercial speech.

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