Underage drinking is a major public health problem. Youth drink more heavily than adults and are more vulnerable to the adverse effects of alcohol. Previous research has demonstrated the connection between alcohol advertising and underage drinking. Restricting outdoor advertising in general and transit ads in particular, represents an important opportunity to reduce youth exposure. To address this problem, the Marin Institute, an alcohol industry watchdog group in Northern California, conducted a survey of alcohol ads on San Francisco bus shelters. The survey received sufficient media attention to lead the billboard company, CBS Outdoor, into taking down the ads. Marin Institute also surveyed the 25 largest transit agencies; results showed that 75 percent of responding agencies currently have policies that ban alcohol advertising. However, as the experience in San Francisco demonstrated, having a policy on paper does not necessarily mean it is being followed. Communities must be diligent in holding accountable government officials, the alcohol industry, and the media companies through which advertising occurs.
Michele R. Simon
Journal of Urban Health