NYC Subway Bans Alcohol Ads

Minions would drive any parent to drink, TBFOn Wednesday, October 25th, the board of the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) agreed to remove all alcohol advertising from subway cars, buses, and stations. This historic ban, affecting the largest public transportation system in the country, follows similar actions by San Francisco, Los Angeles, Detroit, Baltimore, Seattle, and San Diego. The action was promoted by a grassroots coalition of community groups in the New York City area, working together as Building Alcohol Ad-Free Transit, and supported by councilmember Daniel Dromm of Jackson Heights, Queens.

Alcohol industry representatives condemned the move, telling Ad Age it was “misguided and unsupported by the scientific research.” Yet multiple studies show that alcohol ad exposure, especially among underage drinkers, directly contributes to acceptance of booze. Even Big Alcohol’s voluntarily adopted—if often not strictly obeyed—advertising policies forbid ads in close proximity to schools and other places youth gather. Yet anyone who has spent any time in New York City understands, everyone gathers on subway platforms. The train is universal, and almost every child who goes anywhere by themself will use it daily.

The effort follows on the heels of landmark anti-alcohol-ad legislation in Los Angeles and the Bay Area. The Los Angeles efforts—which removed ads not just from transit but all publicly owned property—were spearheaded by the LA Drug and Alcohol Policy Alliance. Alcohol Justice led the Bay Area campaigns, which began with the removal of alcohol ads from BART, and expanded that to the San Francisco MTA and bus shelters.

Bruce Lee Livingston, Executive Director/CEO of Alcohol Justice, knows firsthand both the difficulty and impact of passing these bans. “Congratulations to everyone in New York City who worked hard to put this into place,” he said. “Less alcohol in a kid’s day—even just a picture of alcohol—helps them lead a healthier and happier life.”

READ MORE Alcohol Justice's report on alcohol ads on public transit.

READ MORE about the LA Drug and Alcohol Policy Alliance.