Commercial speech is protected under the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution, but there is no constitutional protection for false or misleading advertising. For example, any advertisement that targets underage people for alcohol sales or consumption (the typology immediately following this one) can be interpreted as misleading because it invites an illegal transaction. Although legal interpretations of the terms “false,” “misleading,” and “targeting minors” are not well developed as they apply to alcohol advertising, a State with such a provision provides a basis for conducting investigations, establishing specific rules regarding ad content that is attractive to minors, and developing remedies to ensure that the ads will not be misleading.

In the typology below, we note the States with laws that expressly prohibit false and misleading advertising. All but 2 of these States (Maryland and Tennessee) cover all types of alcoholic beverages (distilled spirits, wine, and beer). We also list specific references to the type of advertising in which false and misleading claims are prohibited (newspapers and magazines, outdoor advertising, and electronic media). At present, 30 States have policies prohibiting false and misleading advertising.

False and Misleading Advertising

(click to view Table)