The US state of Utah has had its ban on wine and spirits advertising struck down by a federal appeals court on the grounds that it limits constitutionally protected free speech. The decision comes months before the city hosts the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Since 1996 a local magazine, the Catalyst, and the Utah Licensed Beverage Association, have been trying to sue the state, seeking an injunction against the ban. Last year the request was denied.

However the appeals court noted that beer advertising was allowed and overturned the ban saying that making wine and spirits advertising illegal for temperance reasons was "irrational".

The judges said: "Utah cannot justify its advertising restrictions through its operation of a public business in liquor sales, as Utah has presented no evidence supporting the somewhat counter-intuitive argument that advertising by liquor licensees poses any threat to the operation of a public business."

Utah has traditionally had very strict alcohol laws because of its strong Mormon culture. The Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints, as the Mormon Church is officially called, prohibits the consumption of alcohol.