Councilman Hopes L.A. Law Survives

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Supreme Court's ruling Thursday on tobacco advertising might not affect a Los Angeles law aimed at eliminating tobacco and alcohol ads from billboards and other signs.

But the local law has never been enforced for other reasons.

The court said Massachusetts cannot ban tobacco ads near playgrounds and schools.

But Councilman Mike Feuer, who wrote the Los Angeles ordinance, said it may survive the decision.

"Obviously, I would have preferred a court ruling that upheld the Massachusetts statute," he said. "But notwithstanding the decision, there may be grounds on which the city ordinance can withstand judicial scrutiny."

The court ruled that the Massachusetts law was over-broad. The question for Los Angeles, he said, is will its law also be considered over-broad.

Feuer said that he believes the city's statute is specific enough--and supported by sufficient documentation--that it might survive.

In 1998, the City Council voted unanimously to in effect eliminate existing tobacco and alcohol advertising from billboards and other signs. The measure banned alcohol or tobacco ads in public view within 1,000 feet of homes, schools, parks, playgrounds, churches, youth centers and entertainment centers.

The next year, however, a group of grocers, liquor store owners and national beer and wine makers filed a lawsuit in federal court that asked a judge to declare the city law unconstitutional and to strike down the restrictions against alcohol advertising.

The lawsuit did not challenge the city's restrictions on tobacco ads, in part because a national settlement with the tobacco companies already squelched those ads, meaning that the city's restrictions would have little effect.

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