Related: View a PDF version of the circuit court opinion.
Citing a link between alcohol advertising restrictions and reduced college binge drinking, a Virginia appellate ruled against alcohol advertisements in student newspapers.
The April 9 Fourth Circuit court opinion reversed a Virginia district court’s decision by a vote of 2-1, and said that student newspapers were not exempt from an Alcoholic Beverage Control rule stating the papers could not print advertisements for beer, wine or mixed beverages unless the ads are “in reference to a dining establishment.”
The Collegiate Times, along with the Cavalier Daily newspaper at the University of Virginia, first filed a complaint against the ABC in 2006, arguing that the restriction was against the newspapers’ First Amendment rights. The two newspapers stated that the bulk of their readership was above the age of 21.
The state struck down the regulation in favor of student newspapers, but then the ABC appealed the decision and arguments were heard in October 2009.
“Though the correlation between advertising and demand alone is insufficient to justify advertising bans in every situation ... here it is strengthened because ‘college student publications’ primarily target college students and play an inimitable role on campus,” the opinion read.
Student newspapers can now only place ads for dining establishments and can include words such as “beer,” “mixed drink,” “cocktail” and “wine.” There cannot be any mentions of a happy hour or specific drink specials.
The lone dissenting opinion wrote “there is no evidence that these newspapers are ‘targeted at students under twenty-one,’” citing that half of the student and faculty population of the schools are of legal drinking age.
“In free speech cases, it is dangerous and unwise to sustain broad regulations for narrow reasons,” the dissenting opinion continued.
“I think the dissent had everything right,” said Rebecca Glenberg, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia.
The CT and Cavalier Daily have two weeks to file a petition for rehearing en banc, which means a hearing in front of the full court of appeals.