The pervasive culture of underage and excessive drinking on college campuses has led to numerous federal and state regulatory efforts to reduce drinking rates among college students. One such policy has been to restrict alcohol advertisements in college student publications, which implicates the First Amendment by limiting access to lawful commercial speech. Although the Supreme Court has developed a four-part balancing test to determine the validity of commercial speech restrictions, the Court has not articulated the level of proof required for assessing the validity of restrictions on alcohol advertisements in college student publications.
This Note focuses on the degree of constitutional protection that should be afforded to alcohol advertisements aimed at college students. It begins by exploring the background and development of the commercial speech doctrine and focuses on the vice advertising subset. Next, this Note discusses policies regarding alcohol use on college campuses and current initiatives to reduce both underage and excessive drinking. This Note then presents the split between the Third and Fourth Circuits regarding the proper application of the commercial speech test when evaluating restrictions on alcohol advertising.
Ultimately, this Note concludes that alcohol advertisements in college student newspapers should be analyzed using the same standard as other commercial speech cases. This Note proposes a resolution of the circuit split by articulating a clear application and evidentiary requirement for the commercial speech test regarding alcohol advertisements in college student publications.