The leaders in the struggle, so far unsuccessful, to abolish unsightly advertising will read with joy of the Supreme Court's favorable decision in regard to the Utah billboard law. In upholding the law, which forbids the advertising of cigarettes, cigars and tobacco, on billboards or other public placards, the court has shown a trend away from its former policy of allowing all types of advertising.
The decision, as an end in itself, signifies little. The removal of tobacco advertisements will make no great effect on the total number of billboards, nor on the amount of tobacco smoked. Since the decision rests on the fact that tobacco can be considered injurious, and thus subject to regulation, the great majority of commodities cannot be affected by it. All other advertising is still allowed under the previous decision that it cannot be restricted for purely aesthetic reasons.
The significance of the case lies in the way Justice Brandeis handles it. Going out of his way to render a liberal interpretation, he draws a wide distinction between billboards and placards, which are an inescapable nuisance to the average person, and advertising in newspapers and magazines, which a reader can easily avoid. The unanimous approval of this attitude by the court is a hopeful sign that they will continue to aid in the restriction of advertising.