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Alcohol and Tobacco Advertising Restrictions in Public Places

Description of Strategy

Restrictions on alcohol and tobacco advertising include any policies that limit advertising of alcoholic beverages and tobacco products, particularly advertising that exposes young people to pro-alcohol and tobacco messages. Restrictions can be in the form of a local ordinance or state law, or can be implemented voluntarily by a business, event, or organization. The following can be included as restrictions:

  • banning ads on buses, trains, kiosks, billboards, supermarket carts, bus shelters, schools, and theme parks;
  • banning or limiting advertising and sponsorship at community events, such as festivals, parties, rodeos, concerts, and sporting events;
  • banning advertising in areas surrounding schools, residential areas, faith organizations, etc.;
  • restricting or banning TV and/or radio commercials advertising alcohol and tobacco;
  • restricting alcohol and tobacco advertising in newspapers and/or on the Internet;
  • countering alcohol and tobacco ads with public service announcements;
  • restricting the size and placement of window advertisements in liquor and convenience stores;
  • requiring all alcohol ads in the local media to include warnings about the health risks of alcohol and tobacco consumption;
  • setting a maximum for the percentage of total print advertising space that alcohol and tobacco ads can cover;
  • reducing the disproportionately high number of alcohol and tobacco billboards in low-income neighborhoods;
  • prohibiting images and statements that portray or encourage intoxication; and,
  • enforcing existing restrictions on alcohol and tobacco advertising (University of Minnesota Alcohol Epidemiology Program, 2009).

Also known as...

Billboard bans

Discussion of Effectiveness


A Cochrane systematic review (Siegfried et. al. 2014) found insufficient evidence for or against recommending alcohol advertising restriction. Two studies found that restricting the content and placement of alcohol advertising may reduce underage and excessive drinking, and two studies found that exposure to alcohol advertising increased drinking among non-drinking adolescents and adolescents who already consume alcohol (University of Wisconsin County Health Rankings, 2014).


Depending on the approach used, there is some evidence that advertising restrictions lower tobacco consumption. In 18 of 19 observational studies, a Cochrane systematic review found nonsmoking adolescents who were more aware of tobacco advertising or who were receptive to it were more likely to have experimented with cigarettes or to become smokers later.

Other studies found a strong association between exposure to tobacco advertising and tobacco consumption. However, the evidence that reducing exposure leads to a reduction in consumption is still mixed. More study is needed, specifically to determine what aspects of successful campaigns are the most effective (University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, 2017).


Strategy Description

University of Minnesota Alcohol Epidemiology Program. (2009). Alcohol advertising restrictions. Retrieved July 24, 2012.

Evidence Base

Gordon, R., Hastings, G., & Moodie, C. (2010). Alcohol marketing and young people’s drinking: What the Evidence Base suggests for policy. Journal of Public Affairs, 10, 88-101.

Gilpin, E. A., White, M. M., Messer, K., & Pierce, J. P. (2007). Receptivity to Tobacco Advertising and Promotions Among Young Adolescents as a Predictor of Established Smoking in Young Adulthood. American Journal of Public Health, 97(8), 1489-1495.

Hollingworth, W., Ebel, B.E., McCarty, C.A., Garrison, M.M., Christakis, D.A., & Rivara, F.P. (2006). Prevention of deaths from harmful drinking in the United States: the potential effects of tax increases and advertising bans on young drinkers. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 67(2), 3008-308.

Lovato, C., Watts, A., & Stead, L. (2011). Impact of tobacco advertising and promotion on increasing adolescent smoking behaviours. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, N.PAG.

Saffer, H., & Dave, D. (2002). Alcohol consumption and alcohol advertising bans. Applied Economics, 34(11), 1325-1334.

Saffer, H., & Dave, D. (2006). Alcohol advertising and alcohol consumption by adolescents. Health Economics, 15, 617-637.

Siegfried, N.,Pienaar, D.C., Ataguba, J.E., Volmink, J., Kredo, T., Jere, M., & Parry, C. DH. (2014). Restricting or banning alcohol advertising to reduce alcohol consumption in adults and adolescents. Retrieved from Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

Smith, L.A. & Foxcroft, D.R. (2009). The effect of alcohol advertising, marketing and portrayal on drinking behavior in young people: systematic review of prospective cohort studies. BMC Public Health, 9, 51.

University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, County Health Rankings and Roadmaps (2017). Tobacco marketing restrictions. Retrieved June 13, 2017.

Wechsler, H., Lee, J.E., Nelson, T.F., & Kuo, M. (2002). Underage college students’ drinking behavior, access to alcohol, and the influence of deterrence policies: findings from the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Survey. Journal of American College Health, 50(5), 223-236.

Weitzman, E.R., Nelson, T.F., Lee, H., & Wechsler, H. (2004). Reducing drinking and related harms in college: Evaluation of the “A Matter of Degree” program. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 27(3), 187-196.

Futher Reading

State laws to reduce the impact of alcohol marketing on youth: Current status and model policies. (2012). Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Baltimore, MD.