We're BAAFT - Building Alcohol Ad-Free Transit - and we're dedicated to removing alcohol ads from NYC's public transit system. But why? Isn't alcohol a legal product? Then why shouldn't alcohol companies be allowed to advertise on NYC Public Transit?
This is not a trivial matter. Alcohol consumption is a major public health issue - approximately 88,000 deaths each year in the US are related to excessive alcohol consumption and underage drinking is especially dangerous. Alcohol problems in the US often begin during adolescence, with 11% of all alcohol consumed by people between the ages of 12-20. Additionally, more than 90% of underage alcohol consumption is in the form of binge drinking (5 or more drinks in a sitting for males, 4 for females). And although excessive alcohol consumption is harmful for everyone, it's especially harmful for adolescents, whose brains are still developing. Adolescent alcohol consumption can have serious long-term consequences, including a higher risk for alcohol dependence (alcoholism).
It's clear that underage drinking is harmful - but are advertisements on NYC Public Transit really that significant in contributing to the drinking of NYC youth? In a word, yes. Studies have shown that alcohol advertising establishes brand loyalty among youth and actively encourages youth to drink, and advertising techniques targeting youth make alcohol consumption seem glamorous and fun by glossing over all of its harmful effects. It's no coincidence that the top alcohol brands consumed by youth are the ones you've probably seen billboards for. What's worse, youth of color are disproportionately exposed to alcohol advertising - making this an issue of public health and social justice.
Even more troubling is the fact that thousands of NYC students rely on public transportation to go to and from school (the MTA gives out 600,000 MetroCards to students annually).
For all of these reasons, many leading professional organizations - including the World Health Organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the National Parent-Teacher Association - call for restrictions on young people's exposure to alcohol advertising and marketing. In fact the American Medical Association and the American Public Health Association specifically call for removal of alcohol advertising from all mass transit systems.
NYC is uncharacteristically behind on this issue. A number of major cities, including Seattle, San Francisco, Boston, and Philadelphia, have already banned alcohol advertising on their public transit systems. NYC has always been a leader in urban public health, and it is time for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to step up to remove these harmful ads from our public transit system.
To join this effort, click here.
For more information about underage drinking and alcohol advertising, click here.