Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act of 1969

Tom Taylor pointed to this in his newsletter today. First a preface, since many people view public policy questions through the “how will this affect me?” Prism as opposed to “what effect will this have on society as a whole?”. I’m a never smoker, never drinker – but I don’t want the government imposing my decisions on others. I think it is a mistake raising the drinking age to 21 from 18, and telling people they can’t smoke in a restaurant.

So I’ve danced around the question – given that we have the first amendment, how is it possible the Congress can pass a law prohibiting a radio station from running advertisements for tobacco products? The above law is the reason. What does it actually say?

The main purpose of this law is to require cigarettes to carry the Surgeon General’s warning on packaging, billboards and magazine and newspaper ads. When it gets to radio, it’s an outright ban:

The relevant parts

Section 2 of Pub. L. 98-474 provided that: “It is the purpose of
this Act [see Short Title of 1984 Amendment note above] to provide
a new strategy for making Americans more aware of any adverse
health effects of smoking, to assure the timely and widespread
dissemination of research findings and to enable individuals to
make informed decisions about smoking.”


Sec. 1335. Unlawful advertisements on medium of electronic

After January 1, 1971, it shall be unlawful to advertise cigarettes on any medium of electronic communication subject to the jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Commission, for provision that a violation of this
chapter should constitute misdemeanor and be punishable by fine.
See, now, section 1338 of this title.


Sec. 1338. Criminal penalty

Any person who violates the provisions of this chapter shall be
guilty of a misdemeanor and shall on conviction thereof be subject
to a fine of not more than $10,000.

Some more background – the FCC is not part of the Federal Government. It has no legal authority to issue subpoenas, arrest or fine anyone. The only power they have is to take away someone’s FCC license and / or demand a “voluntary contribution” to the US Treasury. This is why the FCC has been impotent in shutting down pirate radio stations. The FCC has no police powers and has to get some part of the real government to intervene. Even if the FCC gets a judge to issue a fine, the FCC has no power to collect it – unless you have an FCC issued license.

So, what this means is…

The law is a law enforced by HHS – they’ll be the one filing suit in a court, not the FCC – however there is this quirk that HHS gets powers based on what powers the FCC is granted.

Does this law prohibit advertising on web sites? How about podcasts? What is I put Marlboro boxes on my web site but don’t take payment? What about an ad inserted into a radio stations stream by a third party? What if non US company advertises in an online magazine not targeted at Americans but that brand is available in the US?

If a cigarette company gets a radio station to run an ad, who committed the crime? The company? The radio station? The person reading the ad copy?

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14 Responses to Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act of 1969

  1. CC1s121LrBGT says:

    What about cable channels that don’t require an FCC broadcast license? Clearly they are electronic, and to those of us that have cable, clearly to us that they don’t have cigarette commercials.

    When is the last time you tried to buy candy cigarettes in the candy department? I am actually glad that almost no stores sell them. I certainly woundn’t want my kid eating junk food, especially junk food that created an interest in smoking.. what would mayor Mikey say? “He likes it!” ?

    • Art Stone says:

      “subject to the jurisdiction” sounds pretty clear, although in 1971 that wasn’t yet important. The FCC has jurisdiction over telephones. How about wifi hot spots? Does using unlicensed spectrum give the FCC (and HHS) jurisdiction?

      “Sorry sir, you can’t do that because no license is required, so we have jurisdiction over the fact there is no license, but there could be if we wanted”

      • Nidster says:

        Make up the rules ‘on-the-spot’ depending on whom they want to target. I came to that conclusion because of the vague wording in so much of the legislation being passed by Congress in the past decade or so. It was meant to empower government union workers who can re-define the rules at their whim. Given your example of legislation passed in the 70’s this has obviously been the goal for a long time.

      • CC1s121LrBGT says:

        and football cards promote concussions…

        here is the chain.

        cocaine is a gateway to crime because users steal for their habit
        marijuana is a gateway to cocaine
        cigarettes are a gateway to marijuana
        candy cigarettes are a gateway to cigarettes

        The more things we can make illegal, the more we can borrow from the Chinese to fill our prisons and prevent crime.

        • Art Stone says:

          Those great big lollipops are much more sinister. They are the gateway drug to licking toads which is the gateway drug to LSD which is the gateway to being Timothy Leary’s lookout which is the gateway to having a syndicated talk radio show.

          • CC1s121LrBGT says:

            I saw Timothy Leary interviewed by Tom Snyder on Tomorrow. Dr Leary wanted to build a space colony at the spot where the moon’s gravity would pull on it with equal force as the earth’s gravity.

            If he were alive today, he’d be more popular than Linda Moulton Howe.

      • Nidster says:

        “Spokesman Robert Humphrey, however, told the Star Tribune: “We enforce this on a complaint basis,” Humphrey said. “This isn’t taking time away from any major enforcement…”

        Oh great, the city of St Paul has an excess of union employees who have nothing better to do other than harass the productive, small business shops who are obviously trying to ‘hook’ the children into buying a heavily taxed, state approved product. If the state ever outlawed tobacco use, the citizens would face another round of confiscatory tax hikes.

        Fits the Template.

  2. Ed Gein says:

    Amazing that we can’t advertise cigs, yet we can advertise prescription drugs with side effects of death along with videos of young girls debasing themselves with the good parts blurred out.

    I’d rather my kids die of lung cancer than moral indifference.

    • Nidster says:

      I’ve been a user for 40 years, I guess at the rate my health is declining I only have another 30-40 years left, that is if da ObamaNation doesn’t get me first.

      • Ed Gein says:

        I used to smoke and never wanted to quit, but a nagging wife is quite the elixor. My dad is 79 and has been a smoker since 16.

        • CC1s121LrBGT says:

          I’ve paid attention to the 100+ year old people on TV. Some of them smoke, some of them drink, some of them eat junk foods, some of them go to church regularly, some of them use curse words.

          The thing I found that they all had in common was a smile, a positive outlook, and the old Alfred E Newman’s “What? Me Worry?” outlook. People with short tempers and lots of anger don’t seem to last so long.

  3. Art Stone says:

    A digression – I heard an asthma blurb talking about a finding that your lungs have “bitter taste buds” and they found by making your lungs sense bitterness, it gives a much faster and simpler response to asthma attacks.

    The key part to me though is they described the reason for the constriction as being an oversupply of calcium. When I started poking around, there is a pretty direct line between vitamin D deficiency (from staying inside and getting no sun) and magnesium / calcium imbalances. Intuitively we have associated asthma as being a “momma’s boy” correlation. That makes sense – the kind of child who starts having asthma or allergies becomes afraid to go outside, becomes vitamin D deficient and gets into a spiral. That’s what I realized I did to myself 4 years ago by becoming a hermit.

    When I was a child, I walked to school back and forth twice a day. When possible gym class was outside. In the summer, I played outside. I sold newspapers outside for a couple hours a day

    Today, the kids ride inside a school bus shielded from ultra violet rays. When they get home they watch TV or use their computer. If they actually do go outside in the sun, everyone is paranoid about skin cancer and slather on SPF-2000so you could stand next to the sun and not absorb an ultraviolet ray. A few years ago, Dr Dean Edell’s reported that using sunscreen actually increases skin cancer if you become vitamin D deficient, because your immune system and cell rapair is very dependent on Vitamind D.

    I’ve long suspected the same is true of children that exhibit severe allergic reaction just to the smell of peanuts. I think if they actually asked a few questions like what foods do you eat, how much sunlight do you get, do you use antibiotic skin soap, etc… The answer would be obvious in short order – but big Pharma wants to sell big pills that have side effects that lead you down the big Pharma death spiral

    I’ve long susp

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