Report: These Bus Ads Don't Stop for Children: Alcohol Advertising on Public Transit

Alcohol Justice

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formerly Marin Institute

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Report: These Bus Ads Don't Stop for Children: Alcohol Advertising on Public Transit

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Reducing youth exposure to alcohol advertising on public property is an important goal for policy action. Local governments bear the brunt of alcohol-related public health and safety costs that far exceed revenue generated by alcohol advertising. Exposure to alcohol ads influences youth to start drinking earlier and to drink more, and leads to alcohol-related problems later in life. Alcohol advertising bans can significantly reduce youth exposure to alcohol advertising.

Alcohol Justice surveyed alcohol advertising policies of 32 major metropolitan transit agencies and city departments that control transit advertising in the U.S. and California.

  • Eighteen agencies explicitly ban alcohol advertising in agency policy, contract requirements, government policy, or a combination of these.
  • Fourteen agencies clearly allow alcohol advertising. New York, Chicago, and Atlanta lag behind the other major transit agencies that protect youth with bans on alcohol advertising.
  • Model alcohol ad bans include Seattle, San Francisco, Boston, and Philadelphia.
  • Most major cities continue to allow alcohol advertising on transit-related street furniture, even if a transit policy banning alcohol ads is in place.
  • Despite claims of economic necessity, revenue from alcohol ads comprises less than 1% of the reporting agencies’ annual operating revenue.
  • Transit agencies that currently accept alcohol advertising should ban it with a formal agency policy. Policies should outline monitoring and enforcement protocols and impose steep fines for noncompliance.
  • Agency policy and contract requirements should use model language such as the King County Seattle Metro Transit Division and the model language section of the Alcohol Justice Out-of-Home Alcohol Advertising Guide.
  • Transit agencies with policies that allow alcohol ads and weak regulations should instead adopt alcohol advertising bans as agency policy. The policy can then be incorporated by reference into all present and future advertising contracts.
  • Legislators should work to ban alcohol advertising on property that the government controls, including public transportation vehicles and street furniture; and restrict alcohol advertising in out-of-home locations elsewhere as well.
  • State legislators and Congress should pass legislation that requires transit agencies to adopt policies that ban alcohol advertising on transit property as a precondition of transportation funding.
  • Transit agencies and corporate advertising contractors should be required to provide public access to advertising contracts and records, including the alcohol corporations, digital ad images, location, duration, and revenue generated for each alcohol advertisement accepted.