NYC Group Pushing To Ban Booze Ads On Buses And Subways

By McCarton Ackerman 07/05/16

Community activists are fighting to ban alcohol ads, which they believe target young children and minorities.

NYC Group Pushing To Ban Booze Ads On Buses And Subways

New York City residents already have plenty of venom towards the city's public transportation system due to late trains and endless construction, but a new coalition is focusing on alcohol ads inside buses and subway cars.

Local TV station NY1 reported that a group of community activists and clergy has joined forces with City Councilman Daniel Dromm in a bid to have the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) remove booze ads from its rides.

According to a study published this year in the International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health, twice as many alcohol ads were found on NYC subway platforms for trains heading uptown to poorer areas than on platforms for trains downtown to more affluent neighborhoods.

“People of color have been targeted for addiction, period,” local resident and politician Clyde Williams told CBS. “They’re targeting the young children and they become alcoholics before you even know it.” Others were less convinced, though. Stephanie Lamb, a Manhattan resident, said subway ads which “sexualize women” are a much more pressing issue.

A spokesman for the MTA said it does not place alcohol ads within 500 feet of playgrounds, schools or places of worship. He also noted that the alcohol ads have become an important source of revenue for the agency, generating $7.5 million in 2014. But while the MTA’s current advertising policy forbids promoting tobacco or any tobacco-related products, it doesn’t say anything about alcohol, according to City Limits.

Other studies have linked alcohol ad exposure with health problems in minority communities. A 2009 study in the American Journal of Public Health, which evaluated the drinking of 139 African-American women ages 21-49 in central Harlem, found that alcohol ad exposure led to a 13% greater chance of problem drinking. A separate study in 2007, published in Alcohol & Alcoholism, concluded that “predominately black neighborhoods continue to face high exposure to outdoor alcohol advertising, including around sites at which youth congregate.”

Other major American cities are also experiencing similar issues, according to City Limits. Chicago researchers released findings in 2009, published in Ethnic Health, which showed that “youth attending schools with 20 percent or more Hispanic students were exposed to 6.5 times more alcohol advertising than students attending schools with less than 20 percent Hispanic students.”

Michael Siegel, a professor at the Boston University School of Public Health, told City Limits that “there is clear evidence from our 2011 study of the Boston transit system that alcohol ads are disproportionately targeted toward vulnerable communities.” Boston’s transit system responded the following year by no longer allowing alcohol ads, but it appears that New York City currently has no plans to follow suit.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.