Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal


The extent to which the government should have the ability to regulate "vice" products and activities, such as tobacco, alcohol and gaming, is extremely controversial. This article examines the commercial speech doctrine's "vice" advertising cases from 1986 through 1999 and the Central Hudson analysis. Remarkably, by 1999, the Court appears to have completely reversed its position regarding "vice" advertising, and in fact, it seems to have virtually eliminated the "vice" advertising distinction. As a result, it seems as though equal treatment is required under the First Amendment for all truthful, non-deceptive advertising for lawful products and services. The authors argue that the Supreme Court has elevated First Amendment protection for commercial speech to its highest level, approaching the protection afforded to political and social speech.