Alcohol Ads Cause Underage Youths to Buy Alcohol, Allege Class-Action Lawsuits

A federal appeals court has dismissed two class-action lawsuits filed by parents alleging that alcohol beverage advertising targets those under the age of 21 and causes them to purchase alcohol illegally.

The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals is the highest federal court to rule on recent cases attempting to censor or prevent alcoholic beverage advertising. The decision mirrors eight earlier lower-court rulings in similar cases.

The three-judge panel rejected as false the plaintiffs’ claim that their parental rights had been injured by alcohol advertising. It agreed with a lower court that “this court is aware of no legal authority that would support restriction of a private party’s freedom of speech and expression under the theory that the expressed ideas interfere with a parent’s right to make decisions regarding their children’s upbringing.” Although “parents have a right to make fundamental decisions about a child’s upbringing, they have no legal right to attempt to prevent other private parties from attempting to influence their children.”

The court noted that alcohol advertising is commercial speech protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

The federal court stressed that it’s already illegal for minors to buy alcohol or anyone to sell it to them. It asserted that “if outlawing the actual sale and purchase is insufficient to remedy the alleged  injuries…then outlawing mere advertising must be insufficient as well.”

The justices suggested that any efforts to prohibit alcohol advertising should be focused on amending the U.S. Constitution or otherwise changing the law rather than using judicial fiat.

Research for decades around the world conducted by governments, health agencies and universities has found no evidence that alcohol ads increase sales, increase alcohol-related problems, or induce non-drinkers to begin drinking. However, alcohol advertisers continue to advertise. That’s because effective advertising can increase a producer’s share of the existing market, which is gained at the expense of other producers who lose market share.


  • Consolidated appeal of Alston, et al. v. Advanced Brands and Imports Co., et al. (2006) and Eisenberg v. Anheuser-Busch, Inc. (2006) to U.S Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals (July 17, 2007).

Filed Under: Advertising