Seeing Risk to Teens, Some Want a Ban on Alcohol Ads in the Subway
The subway cars display advertisements for alcohol. Subway platforms display advertisements for alcohol. Students glance at the advertisements. The advertisements have been crafted to be eye catching and persuasive.
Ads like that are as puzzling as they are troubling to Christopher McKay, Youth Minister at the Church of God of Prophecy in the Bronx. “You wouldn’t allow school buses to have alcohol advertising and, essentially, for young people in New York City the trains are their school busses, and they are seeing ads every single day that are trying to get them to start drinking early,” McKay says. “It’s pretty blatant that young people who really can’t fend for themselves are being targeted.”
Launched in 2016,the Building Alcohol Ad Free Transit (BAAFT) campaign counts approximately 160 supporting organizations, including public health groups, hospitals, prevention coalitions, faith-based organizations, small businesses,” according to Robert Pezzolesi, who founded the New York Alcohol Policy Alliance in 2010.
According to Pezzolesi, BAAFT brought the issue to City Councilmember Daniel Dromm (Queens), who, last December, with 11 co-sponsors, introduced a resolution “calling on the Metropolitan Transit Authority, the Governor, and the State Legislature to prohibit advertising for alcoholic beverages on subways, busses, and other New York City Transit property.”
While banning alcohol ads in the subways would cost the MTA some advertising revenue, it could save the city the health costs associated with alcohol. Alcohol use disorder-related “hospitalizations of underage drinkers in the United States cost approximately $755 million—with more than half this total cost attributable to youth who sustained injuries,” according to a 2016 study in Substance Use and Misuse. It’s unclear what New York’s share of that total would be—just as it’s unlikely that hospital expenses are the only costs that youth drinking imposes.