New York Bans Alcohol Ads on Most City Property

Citing the health risk to young people and vulnerable populations, the city announced the ban that could lead to a loss of $3 million in yearly advertising fees.

Eighteen months after the Metropolitan Transportation Authority banned alcohol advertisements on New York City buses, in subway cars and in stations, the City of New York has followed suit, instituting its own ban on most city-owned properties.

The ban, which goes into effect immediately, affects city-owned properties such as bus shelters, newsstands, recycling bins and LinkNYC Wi-Fi kiosks.

“There’s no doubt that far too many New Yorkers struggle with serious substance misuse issues, among them excessive drinking,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement on Tuesday.

About 3 percent of city-owned advertising space is dedicated to alcohol ads. In the 2018 fiscal year, the city received $2.7 million in alcohol advertising revenue, a minuscule percentage of the $92.5 billion executive budget that Mr. de Blasio proposed last week. City officials say the loss of alcohol advertising revenue is justified by the effects of overconsumption.

There were 110,000 alcohol-related emergency room visits in New York City in 2016, and 2,000 people died because of alcohol-related causes such as motor vehicle crashes and liver disease that year, according to city officials.

Exposure to alcohol advertising can lead to the consumption of larger quantities of alcohol more frequently, particularly among young people, according to city health officials. Studies have linked exposure to outdoor alcohol advertising with the intention to use alcohol and with problematic drinking.

“In New York City, we see far too many deaths related to alcohol,” the city health commissioner, Dr. Oxiris Barbot, said in a statement. “We know exposure to alcohol advertising can lead to drinking more alcohol, more often behavior that can be harmful and even fatal.”

Other cities such as Los Angeles, Philadelphia and San Francisco have already banned alcohol advertisements from city property.

New York’s ban on alcohol advertising affects city-owned properties such as bus shelters.

Poorer neighborhoods in New York City where mostly blacks and Latinos live were already subject to a disproportionate number of alcohol ads in the subway, according to a 2017 study. Those same neighborhoods had lower levels of educational achievement and a greater number of children.

“It’s a matter of health equity,” Dr. Hillary Kunins, the acting executive deputy health commissioner, said in an interview. “In scientific studies in our city and others there is evidence of targeting to communities of color, which unfairly exposes black and Latino youth to the risks of drinking earlier and more.”

City-owned venues such as restaurants and stadiums like Citi Field, where the sale or consumption of alcohol is authorized, will be exempt from the ban. And New Yorkers will likely still see some alcohol-related ads on city property for some time: Because city agencies work with advertising firms that place the advertisements on city property through long-term contracts, the full ban won’t be in effect until 2027, when the last deals expire.

The Department of Transportation, which is responsible for bus shelter advertising, has a licensing agreement that runs through 2026 and the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications’s agreement, which covers the city’s free Wi-Fi kiosks, ends in 2027.

“New Yorkers will not see the change overnight because of the phasing out of these contracts. But as new placements get made you will see alcohol ads replaced by other ads,” Dr. Kunins said.

Officials from the Distilled Spirits Council, a Washington, D.C.-based group that represents the distilled spirits industry, criticized the ban, which was memorialized by an executive order signed by Mr. de Blasio on April 26.

“Parents are the largest influence by far of whether people under 21 drink,” said Jay Hibbard, vice president for government relations for the spirits council.

He described alcohol advertising as “a way to move people between brands and products. It encourages people to try different spirits that they may find attractive,” he said.

Mr. Hibbard pointed to a 2015 study from the University of Texas at Austin that found that advertising had little effect on alcohol consumption and more on brand choice.

The numbers of alcohol-related deaths and emergency room visits have remained stubbornly unchanged in New York in recent years, and Dr. Kunins said the health department began looking for other reasons to explain why those figures were not decreasing.

“What underpins this executive order is a close review of the science,” Dr. Kunins said. “The major studies show that exposure to alcohol advertising influences drinking, particularly in youth.”(By Jeffery C. Mays)

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