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Case Summary for Virginia State Board of Pharmacy v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, Inc.
The relevant language from Justice Blackmun's majority opinion is the following: "Generalizing, society also may have a strong interest in the free flow of commercial information. Even an individual advertisement, though entirely "commercial," may be of general public interest. The facts of decided cases furnish illustrations: advertisements stating that referral services for legal abortions are available, Bigelow v. Virginia, supra; that a manufacturer of artificial furs promotes his product as an alternative to the extinction by his competitors of fur-bearing mammals, see Fur Information & Fashion Council, Inc. v. E. F. Timme & Son, 364 F. Supp. 16 (SDNY 1973); and that a domestic producer advertises his product as an alternative to imports that tend to deprive American residents of their jobs, cf. Chicago Joint Board v. Chicago Tribune Co., 435 F.2d 470 (CA7 1970), cert. denied, 402 U.S. 973 (1971). Obviously, not all commercial messages contain the same or even a very great public interest element. There are few to which such an element, however, could not be added. Our pharmacist, for example, could cast himself as a commentator on store-to-store disparities [425 U.S. 748, 765] in drug prices, giving his own and those of a competitor as proof. We see little point in requiring him to do so, and little difference if he does not. Moreover, there is another consideration that suggests that no line between publicly "interesting" or "important" commercial advertising and the opposite kind could ever be drawn. Advertising, however tasteless and excessive it sometimes may seem, is nonetheless dissemination of information as to who is producing and selling what product, for what reason, and at what price. So long as we preserve a predominantly free enterprise economy, the allocation of our resources in large measure will be made through numerous private economic decisions. It is a matter of public interest that those decisions, in the aggregate, be intelligent and well informed. To this end, the free flow of commercial information is indispensable. See Dun & Bradstreet, Inc. v. Grove, 404 U.S. 898, 904 -906 (1971) (Douglas, J., dissenting from denial of certiorari). See also FTC v. Procter & Gamble Co., 386 U.S. 568, 603 -604 (1967) (Harlan, J., concurring). And if it is indispensable to the proper allocation of resources in a free enterprise system, it is also indispensable to the formation of intelligent opinions as to how that system ought to be regulated or altered. Therefore, even if the First Amendment were thought to be primarily an instrument to enlighten public decision-making in a democracy, [fn] we could not say that the free flow of information does not serve that goal. [fn]"
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