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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Alcohol and Cigarette Ads Send the Wrong Message


The MBTA provides Greater Boston with mass public transportation in the way of: boat, bus, rail, and subway. Recently the MBTA has come under fire because of alcohol ads plastered inside their rail cars. Thousands of kids are being exposed to, what some are saying, an unhealthy message and that these ads cause kids to want to try drinking alcohol. What is strange about the MBTA's ad policy is that they will not allow cigarette ads. Both alcohol and cigarettes are age restricted legal substances, yet, alcohol is alright to advertise and not cigarettes; as if alcohol is better for the human body than cigarettes. It seems quite contradictory, something just doesn't make sense. There is no reason that children should be exposed to this kind of advertising, alcohol and cigarette ads send the wrong message especially when the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is run by the state.

Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the School of Public Health at Boston University, researched this growing problem and is recommending that the MBTA no longer advertise liquor. Siegal said to the Boston Herald, "the MBTA has a policy that forbids using ad space for tobacco products. He argues drinking is just as much of a health risk. What is the consistency of a policy that says you can't advertise cigarettes, but alcohol is acceptable? We don't think the state should support the recruitment of youth drinkers". The MBTA has no plans to take down the ads anytime soon, they argue that they are charged with generating revenue in other ways than people just buying tickets in order to help pay for the enormous operating costs.

MBTA riders on the Orange Line, which the study said has the heaviest saturation of beer and whiskey ads, believe that it is time to stop advertising alcohol. Siegal said in his report "on average, MBTA riders watch the equivalent of five Super Bowls worth of booze ads during each commute". I find that to be a pretty unbelievable number of ads, it doesn't seem like the MBTA's argument holds a lot of water. There have to be other ways to generate money than alcohol ads, indeed, some riders said to the Boston Herald that they would be willing to pay a larger fare in order to stop the ads.

Photo by: John Wilcox

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