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Court allows ATF time to make new rules.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. circuit has ruled that the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Consumer Alert's case to allow advertising of the health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption must wait for a new rule from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.

In its decision, a panel of the court upheld a lower court decision that the case could wait because ATE had not yet issued its forthcoming rule on alcohol beverage health claims. The rule is expected within several months. CEI had argued that ATE in fact already had a ban in place on moderate consumption health claims, and that this ban violated the First Amendment. In recent years, several Supreme Court decisions have made it clear that commercial speech concerning alcohol is entitled to a high degree of constitutional protection.

"The appellate court's ruling did not address the merits of our case, only the ripeness," said Sam Kazman, CEI's general counsel. "It's possible that, in its new rule, BATE will come to its senses and recognize that truthful speech in alcohol labels and ads cannot be suppressed. If BATE fails to do so, then, one way or another, its censorship will end up facing court review.

"A large number of scientific studies have established the fact that moderate alcohol consumption reduces the risk of heart disease," Kazman added. "This fact is even noted in the federal government's own Dietary Guidelines. Nonetheless, the BATF has refused to allow alcohol labels and ads to even contain references to those guidelines."
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Title Annotation:Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms
Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 20, 2002
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