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First Amendment Library:
Rebecca Tedford Partington


In 1956, Rhode Island adopted two statutes, R.I. Gen. Laws __ 3-8-7 and 3-8-8.1, that forbid both sellers and the media from advertising the price of any alcoholic beverage. The stated purpose of this legislation is to promote temperance by increasing the price of alcoholic beverages. These statutes were upheld by Rhode Island state courts. S & S Liquormart, Inc. v. Pastore, 497 A.2d 729 (R.I. 1985);Rhode Island Liquor Stores Ass'n. v. The Evening Call Pub. Co., 497 A.2d 331 (R.I. 1985). In early 1992, 44 Liquormart, a Rhode Island retail store that sells alcoholic beverages, and Peoples Super Liquor Stores, a Massachusetts retailer that would advertise in Rhode Island if it could, challenged the Rhode Island laws in federal court. The trial court, after a trial on the merits, held that the advertising ban was unconstitutional under the First Amendment. On appeal, the First Circuit Court of Appeals reversed. In Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp. v. Public Service Commission of N.Y., 447 U.S. 557 (1980), the Court held that, under the First Amendment, truthful, non-misleading commercial speech can be restricted only if (1) the government has a substantial interest in regulating the speech, (2) the regulation directly advances that substantial interest, and (3) the regulation is not more extensive than necessary to advance that interest. In Posadas de Puerto Rico Associates v. Tourism Council of Puerto Rico, 478 U.S. 328 (1986), the Court held that a legislature's power to ban a particular product or activity included the power to ban all advertising of that product or activity.