Fourth Circuit Court Declares Virginia Ban on Alcohol Ads in College Newspapers Unconstitutional

The University of Virginia and Virginia Tech’s college newspapers The Cavalier Daily and The Collegiate Times challenged the Virginia ABC’s ban on alcohol advertisements in college papers as a violation of First Amendment rights, and a panel of the 4th U.S. District Court of Appeals agreed.  The Federal Court reversed the District Court’s conclusion that the ban was an appropriate restriction of commercial speech as it combated underage drinking on college campuses.

The case balanced on both Papers’ readership demographics.  For the ban to be Constitutional, the VA ABC needed to demonstrate that the narrow tailoring of the challenged regulation reasonably fit the asserted interest and that the tailoring “represents not necessarily the single best disposition but one whose scope is in proportion to the interest served.”

Nearly 64% of UVA’s The Cavalier Daily readers are 21 or older while 60% of VT’s Collegiate Times’ readers are 21 and older.  Citing the majority of readers being of legal drinking age, the Court stated that the ban prohibits large numbers adults “from receiving truthful information about a product that they are legally allowed to consume.”  The Court continues by stating that the VA ABC “attempts to keep would-be drinkers in the dark based on what the ABC perceives to be their own good.”

The opinion can be found here.

Leave a Reply