1. No Advertising
An advertising ban on legal marijuana.

Why is this needed?
Like tobacco smoke, marijuana smoke contains carcinogens, some in higher concentrations than in tobacco smoke. (1) The drug is addictive, (2) and causes many health problems (3, 4) similar to those caused by alcohol and tobacco. A legal marijuana industry will begin with the same or more freedom to advertise and market its products to children as the alcohol and tobacco industries have today. A ban on the advertising and marketing of legal marijuana will greatly reduce the kinds of marijuana consequences that we endure with alcohol and tobacco.

Consequences, Tobacco

  • Tobacco killed 100 million people in the last century and will kill an estimated 1 billion people this century if protective measures are not put in place worldwide. (5)
  • More than 400,000 Americans die every year from such tobacco-related diseases as cancer, heart disease, and lung disease. This is more deaths than those caused by AIDS, car crashes, murder, and suicide combined. (6)
  • Tobacco kills half of all users who keep smoking. (7)

Consequences, Alcohol

  • Alcohol causes 1 in every 25 deaths worldwide. (8)
  • More than 85,000 Americans die every year from alcohol-related crashes, drownings, falls, overdoses, and diseases including stroke, liver disease, and cancer. (9)
  • Alcohol is responsible for some 243,000 auto crash injuries in the U.S. every year. (10)

Both industries need to replace the number of people their products kill every year just to maintain sales. They know the younger children are when they start smoking or drinking, the more likely they will become addicted—and lifetime customers. (11) Both industries target adolescents to replace customers who have died using their products.

Impact of Advertising

In September 2010, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a Policy Statement (12) calling for a ban on tobacco advertising and limitations on alcohol advertising. Key points include:

  • Advertising is responsible for up to 30 percent of adolescent tobacco and alcohol use. (13)
  • Half of all smokers begin by age 13 and 90 percent of all smokers begin by age 19. (14)
  • Adolescents are 22 times more likely to see an alcohol ad that encourages drinking than an alcohol industry-sponsored public service announcement that discourages underage drinking or warns about negative consequences like drinking and driving. (15)
  • The younger children are when they start, the greater the risk of serious health problems. (16)
  • Numerous longitudinal studies have found that young people who are exposed to alcohol advertising and marketing of various kinds are more likely to start drinking, or if already drinking, to drink more.
  • Many studies have also found that over and over again, alcohol companies place their advertising where youth (ages 12 to 20) are more likely than legal-aged adults per capita to see, hear, or read it.

Advertising Expenditures

  • The tobacco industry spends $15 billion a year on advertising and marketing. (17)
  • The alcohol industry spends $6 billion a year on advertising and marketing. (18)
  • Marijuana is illegal for recreational use. No legal commercial industry exists—yet—to spend anything on advertising or marketing. If marijuana is legalized, an advertising ban will ensure no money is spent to advertise legal marijuana to anyone, especially children.

Alternative: Counter-Advertising
if courts strike down the marijuana advertising ban.

Why is this needed?

In the past, courts have held that commercial speech is protected by the First Amendment. We think a case can be made for restricting the commercial speech of companies that sell drugs that addict and kill people. But if courts don’t agree, the next-best solution is counter-advertising. This alternative will:

  • Mandate a counter-advertising fund to be financed by the marijuana industry and to be administered by an independent body with no representation from any industry that sells an addictive drug. This fund will create one counter ad for every four ads the marijuana industry runs. Counter ads must be placed in the same media and in the same time blocks as industry ads.
  • Prohibit the marijuana industry from deducting advertising and marketing costs as a business expense from taxes it owes.



1. Moir D, Rickert WS, Levasseur G, Larose Y, Maertens R, White P, Desjardins S. “A comparison of mainstream and sidestream marijuana and tobacco cigarette smoke produced under two machine smoking conditions.” Chem Res Toxicol. 2008;Feb;21(2):494-502.

2. California Society of Addiction Medicine. “Marijuana’s addictive potential (for the general public)” and “Marijuana’s addictive potential (for healthcare professionals).”

3. Hall W and Degenhardt L. “Adverse health effects of non-medical cannabis use.” (A review of the scientific literature over the past decade.) Lancet 2009;374:1383-91.

4. See Note 2.

5. Peto R, Lopez A. “The future worldwide health effects of current smoking patterns.” In: Koop C, Pearsson C, Schwartz M, eds. Global Health in the 21st Century. New York: Jossey-Bass; 2000. See also: “Global Cancer Facts and Figures.” American Cancer Society (2007) Atlanta, Georgia.

6. Mokdad AH, Marks JS, Stroup DF, Gerberding JL. “Actual causes of death in the United States.” JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association 2004;291(10):1238–45.

7. Thun M, Henley SJ, Calle EE. Tobacco use and cancer: an epidemiologic perspective for geneticists. Oncogene. 2002;21:7307-7325.

8. Jürgen R, Colin M, Svetlana P, Montarat T, Yot T, Jayadeep P. “Global burden of disease and injury and economic cost attributable to alcohol use and alcohol-use disorders.” Lancet 2009;373:2223-2233.

9. See Note 6.

10. “Traffic Safety Facts 2005: A Compilation of Motor Vehicle Crash Data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System and the General Estimates System.” National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, National Center for Statistics and Analysis, U.S. Department of Transportation. Washington, DC 20590

11. Adolescents who start drinking before age 14, for example, are six times more likely to develop addiction than those who start at age 21 or older. See “Figure 7.4–Alcohol Dependence or Abuse in the Past Year among Adults Aged 21 or Older, by Age at First Use of Alcohol.” Results from the 2009 National Survey on Drug use and Health, 2010. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Bethesda, Maryland.

12. Council on Communications and Media. “Policy statement—children, adolescents, substance abuse, and the media.” American Academy of Pediatrics. Pediatrics 2010;126(4):791-799.

13. Atkin CK. “Survey and experimental research on effects of alcohol advertising.” In: Martin S, ed. Mass Media and the Use and Abuse of Alcohol. Rockville, MD: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism; 1995:39–68 and Pierce JP, Choi WS, Gilpin EA, Farkas AJ, Berry C. “Industry promotion of cigarettes and adolescent smoking.” JAMA. 1998;279(7):511–515.

14. US Department of Health and Human Services. Preventing Tobacco Use Among Young People: Report of the Surgeon General. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office; 1994.

15. Jernigan D. Youth Exposure to Alcohol Advertising on Television, 2001 to 2007. Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland. Available at

16. Belcher HM, Shinitzky HE. “Substance abuse in children: prediction, protection, and prevention.” Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1998;152(10):952–960.

17. Editorial: “Big Tobacco’s promises to reform go up in smoke.” USA Today. September 12, 2006:14A.

18. Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth. Alcohol Advertising and Youth [fact sheet]. Washington, DC: 2007.

Other Links to this Post

  1. Opponents of Marijuana Legalization Finally Noticed They're Losing the Debate | The Daily Chronic — February 28, 2012 @ 3:59 pm


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