By LUIS FERRÉ-SADURNÍ OCT. 25, 2017
The board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Wednesday banned advertising of alcoholic beverages on New York City buses, subway cars and stations, contending that the social benefits of deterring underage drinking outweighed the loss of revenue.
After years of pressure from grass-roots organizations, the board voted unanimously in favor of the ban, which will go into effect in January.
Advocates have long said that alcohol advertising is a public health issue and that the proliferation of such advertising increases the likelihood of underage drinking.
“Alcohol advertisements on the M.T.A. are disproportionally targeting communities of color, lower-income communities and also young people,” said Jazmin Rivera, a spokeswoman for Building Alcohol Ad-Free Transit.
The authority’s ad space has long been a battleground for debates over free speech and decency. After Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office complained about a breast enhancement ad in 2014, officials worked with advertisers to make sure ads were not too racy.
In 2015, the board voted to ban political advertising on subways and buses to avoid legal challenges it had faced in rejecting some ads with political messages. Tobacco advertising has been banned in the transit system since 1992.
The estimated $2 million in revenue derived each year from alcohol advertising is a minuscule figure compared with the authority’s budget, said Joseph J. Lhota, the chairman of the authority. The authority expects to receive about $15.5 billion in revenue in 2017.
The authority, he said, was not concerned about making up for lost revenue, especially as the system begins to modernize.
When advertisers understand that we have approximately 1.6 million people every single day through the system — it’s a fabulous place to advertise,” Mr. Lhota said.
Effective immediately, the agency will no longer accept new alcohol-related ads; existing contracts for such ads will be honored until the contracts expire at the end of the year.
The decision disappointed alcohol trade associations, which have confronted a growing number of alcohol advertising bans in cities across the country.
“Science and research show that there is no benefit to banning this type of advertising,” said Jay Hibbard, vice president of government relations for the Distilled Spirits Council.
Mr. Hibbard said the majority of the American population, about 71.6 percent, was above the legal drinking age. Parents, not advertisements, are the greatest influence on preventing underage drinking, he said.
“This is not advertising on school buses,” Mr. Hibbard said. “This is advertising on a public transportation system.”
The board is still discussing how the measure will affect the partnerships it has with Connecticut on Metro-North Railroad trains, and with New Jersey on New Jersey Transit.