TTBOn November 26, 2018, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) published an extensive proposed rule that seeks to “reorganize and codify [labeling and advertising] regulations in order to simplify and clarify regulatory standards … and reduce the regulatory burden on industry members where possible.” The agency is accepting public comments on the proposal until June 26, 2019.

TTB’s efforts to streamline the rules and finally recognize long-standing First Amendment precedents are welcome. But parts of the proposed rule do not adequately protect the commercial speech rights of alcohol-beverage producers and consumers. We’ll focus here (as WLF will in its forthcoming public comment) on the prohibition of statements on labels or in advertisements that are disparaging, false, misleading, obscene, or indecent.

While encouraging civility in the wine, beer, and spirits marketplace may be a noble cause, simply stating that such regulation “reflects … longstanding ATF and TTB policy” will not save rules that restrict commercial speech from successful court challenges.