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November 8, 2007

For Immediate Release



Boston Misses the Bus on Alcohol Advertising

New National Survey Finds MBTA Ad Policy among Nation’s Worst


BOSTON -- In the wake of a new national report from Marin Institute that finds the Massachusetts Bay Area Transportation Authority (MBTA) is one of only two major public transit systems that explicitly allow alcohol advertising, a coalition of local organizations, community leaders, activists, parents and youth are stepping up their call for an end to alcohol ads on the T.


“It is unfathomable – in the midst of an epidemic of underage drinking in Massachusetts – that a government agency would allow alcohol advertising on public space,” said Amy Helburn of Massachusetts Banding Together Against Alcohol-Advertising.  “It is past time for the MBTA to join with other transit agencies around the country in recognizing that the small amount of revenue generated by these ads is not worth the cost to public health.”


Released today, the report, entitled The End of the Line for Alcohol Ads on Public Transit, details the policies of twenty major public transit systems.  Of the systems surveyed, only NYC and Boston have policies that claim to protect children, yet still allow alcohol advertising.   And in New York, State Assemblyman Felix Ortiz has just introduced legislation that would outlaw alcohol ads on mass transit.


“The connection between youth exposure to alcohol ads and underage drinking is well documented,” said Michele Simon, JD, MPH, research and policy director at the alcohol watchdog Marin Institute. Simon said: “Boston should join Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Seattle, and many others in saying no to alcohol ads on public transit.   It’s not only possible legally, but commonsense policy.”


Alcohol advertising for products ranging from Coors Light to Svedka Vodka routinely appears on MBTA trains and buses.  In Greater Boston, 25,000 youth depend on the T to get to school each day.  Countless other youth are subjected to alcohol advertising on wrapped trains and buses traveling through their communities. Since January 2005, politicians, community leaders, public health advocates, and concerned parents and youth have urged the MBTA to change its policy on alcohol advertising, but the agency has refused, claiming it relies on the money generated by theses ads.  But alcohol advertising accounts for only 0.1% percent of MBTA’s total revenue


The MBTA’s stance on alcohol advertising is particularly puzzling since just last year the agency amended its policy on videogame advertising so that it no longer accepts ads for games rated as unsuitable for children under 17.  The agency made the change within weeks of receiving a public letter that expressed concern about advertisements for the violent videogame Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories on the outside of the Green Line trains.


“It is disappointing that an agency that was so responsive to concerns about advertising that promotes media violence refuses to acknowledge the negative impact of alcohol ads,” said Josh Golin, Associate Director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, which wrote and organized the videogame letter.  “A publicly funded state agency should not be in the business of undermining public health.”


To read the complete report, please visit:


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