Students and ACLU fight for the right to advertise alcohol in newspapers

\nPENNSYLVANIA – Ever since a state law was first enforced\nin 1997 prohibiting the advertisement of alcohol in any publication\nby, for or on behalf of any educational institution, most college\nand university student newspapers in Pennsylvania, as well as\nthe bars and restaurants that advertise in them, wanted the law\ngone. Now the University of Pittsburgh’s student newspaper, with\nthe help of the Pittsburgh chapter of the American Civil Liberties\nUnion, has stepped forward to do just that. They filed a lawsuit\nin April against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania contesting the\nlaw’s constitutionality.

“We think the law is a violation of our First Amendment\nrights,” said Hal Turner, editor in chief of The Pitt\nNews. “The state is dictating what we can and cannot\nprint in our papers.”

Turner also claims that revenue from these ads significantly\nhelp fund the newspaper, which lost $20,000 in ad income after\nthe first year of the law’s enforcement. In addition, he noted\nthat new businesses that have moved into the area have expressed\nan interest in advertising if the ban is ever lifted.

“We’re not making as much money, and because of that we’re\nnot being able to print as many articles as we liked to, which,\nin a way, is also censorship,” Turner said.

A press secretary for State Attorney General Mike Fisher, one\nof the defendants, told the Penn State student newspaper that\nthe law has been in effect for over two years and no student newspapers\nhave folded because of it. He also said the law will help decrease\nexcessive alcohol consumption and underage drinking on college\ncampuses.

Turner believes they are punishing the wrong people.

“We are only a tiny molecule of a drop in the bucket”\nhe said. “This does not even scratch the surface. There are\nso many other things the government can do [to fight alcohol abuse].\nThey can educate and have stricter law enforcement, [methods]\nwhich have been proven to work and don’t violate the constitution.”\n

Turner also states that 75 percent of The Pitt News’ readers,\nwhich includes students, faculty and administrators, are over\n21, and two-thirds of the students alone are over 21.

ACLU attorney Vic Walczak asked the U.S. district court to\norder an immediate injunction on enforcing the law, but the request\nwas rejected.

No trial date has been set. \n