Answer: Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, and Vermont
Out of the fifty states that comprise our beautiful nation, four of them have said “no” to the large outdoor advertising structures we call billboards that are typically found in high-traffic areas like highways and busy roads. Early billboards were basically large posters on the sides of buildings, with limited but still appreciable commercial value. As roads and highways multiplied, the billboard business thrived.
Along the way, there have been some memorable milestones for billboard advertising. In 1998 the four major U.S. tobacco companies signed the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, which eliminated billboard advertising of cigarettes in 46 states. Over a decade later, the first “scented billboard“, emitting odors similar to charcoal and black pepper to suggest a steak grilling, was erected in Mooresville, North Carolina by the Bloom grocery chain to promote the sale of beef. Moreover, some billboards have become cultural sensations that have gone on to contribute to the identity of a city. Take the “Hollywood Sign” in California for example, or even the Citgo Sign in Boston. Both of these landmarks started as a commercial enterprise, but have now since become just another “beautiful” monument to see in each of these places.
With that said, “beauty” is in the eye of the beholder as they say. Across our country, four states decided that these massive signs were, in fact, not so beautiful and decided to ban them with two more prohibiting the construction of new ones. According to the Institute for Local Self Reliance, “Four states currently ban billboards: Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, and Vermont. It is no accident that these four states are known for their scenic beauty. Businesspeople in these states recognize that an unmarred landscape promotes tourism and benefits them in the long run. Billboard bans also level the playing field between local businesses and national chains in at least one advertising medium. Two states, Rhode Island and Oregon, have prohibited the construction of new billboards and a handful of communities have chosen to cap on the number of billboards that can be constructed.” It’s interesting to note that with so many people now looking down at their phones, computers, and wearables, some are questioning whether outdoor advertising is even worth it anymore. Regardless, these states have done away with it altogether, and they haven’t looked back since.