Alcohol Ads, Free Speech, and Constitutional Rights

Some state rules regulating alcohol advertising are violations of First Amendment free speech rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, according to a legal opinion issued by the Tennessee Attorney General’s office.

Current Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission rules prohibit distilled spirits advertising “in any manner” on radio or television stations in the state.

Another restriction imposed by the Alcoholic Beverage Commission prohibits audio portions of television ads from containing references to the availability of alcoholic beverages. For example, wine ads are forbidden to give the name, address, or telephone number of a licensed wholesaler or retailer.

The Attorney General’s opinion cites U.S. Supreme Court decisions issued over the past two decades on state-imposed restrictions on alcohol advertising.


  • Alcohol ad rules infringe on free speech, attorney general says. WVLT TV, Knoxville, TN, April 11, 2005; Attorney general: Limits on alcohol ads may violate First Amendment. Tennessean, April 12, 2005.