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.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Telephone survey and record requests were conducted on June–August 2007. We encountered some resistance in obtaining information via telephone so in some cases resorted to sending written requests under the jurisdiction’s public records act. The agencies are: Chicago Transit Authority, Los Angeles County, Metropolitan Transport Authority, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority, Orange County Transportation Authority, King County Seattle Metro Transit Division, Alameda Contra Costa Transit District, Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County Texas, Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District, Miami–Dade Transit, Golden Gate Transportation District, Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon, Bay Area Rapid Transit District, City and County of Honolulu Department of Transportation Services, Metropolitan Transit Authority-State of New York, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, Sacramento Regional Transit District, San Diego Metropolitan Transit System, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, Southern Metrolink, Denver Regional Transportation District, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, New Jersey Transit, and Maryland Transit Administration.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Surgeon General’s Call to Action To Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General, 2007. Accessed on: January 17, 2008. Available at: http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/topics/underagedrinking/calltoaction.pdf.
Miller TR, Levy DT, Spicer RS, Taylor DM. Societal costs of underage drinking. J Stud Alcohol. 2006;67(4):519–528.
DeWit DJ, Adlaf EM, Offord DR, Ogborne AC. Age at first alcohol use: a risk factor for the development of alcohol disorders. Am J Psychiatry. 2000;157:145–150.
Television, alcohol ads and youth. Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth website. Accessed on January 17, 2008. Available at: http://camy.org/factsheets/index.php?FactsheetID=23.
Alcohol industry “responsibility” advertising on television, 2001 to 2003. Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth website. Accessed on January 17, 2008. Available at: http://camy.org/research/responsibility2005/responsibility2005.pdf.
Kwate NO, Jernigan M, Lee T. Prevalence, proximity and predictors of alcohol ads in Central Harlem. Alcohol Alcohol. 2007;42(6):635–640.
How does alcohol affect the world of a child? National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website. Accessed on January 17, 2008. Available at: http://www.alcoholfreechildren.org/gs/pubs/pdf/statbooklet.pdf.
The alcohol advertising and youth page. Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth website. Accessed on January 17, 2008. Available at: http://camy.org/factsheets/index.php?FactsheetID=1.
Snyder LB, Milici FF, Slater M, Sun H, Strizhakova Y. Effects of advertising exposure on drinking among youth. Arch Pediatri Adolesc Med. 2006;160:18–24.
Stacy AW, Zogg JB, Unger JB, Dent CW. Exposure to televised alcohol ads and subsequent adolescent alcohol use. Am J Health Behav. 2004;28(6):498–509.
Ellickson PL, Collins RL, Hambaroomians K, McCaffrey DR. Does alcohol advertising promote adolescent drinking? results from a longitudinal assessment. Addict. 2005;100:235–246.
Pasch KE, Komro KA, Perry CL, Hearst MO, Farbakhsh K. Outdoor alcohol advertising near schools: what does it advertise and how is it related to intentions and use of alcohol among young adolescents? J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2007;68(4):587–596.
Saffer H, Dave D. Alcohol consumption and alcohol advertising bans. Applied Econ. 2002;34(11):1325–1334.
Saffer H, Dave D. Alcohol advertising and alcohol consumption by adolescents. Health Econ. 2006;15:617–637.
Bonnie RJ, O’Connell E, eds. Reducing Underage Drinking: a Collective Responsibility. Washington DC: The National Academies; 2004:136.
Transit Advertising Sales Agreements: a Synthesis of Transit Practice. Washington DC: Transportation Research Board. 2004:15.
CTA introduces subway customers to moving picture ads. Chicago Transit Authority website. Accessed on January 17, 2008. Available at: http://www.transitchicago.com/news/archpress.wu?action=displayarticledetail and articleid=116796.
Total rider ship in 2006 was 1.5 billion. MTA NYC website. Accessed on January 17, 2008. Available at: http://www.mta.nyc.ny.us/nyct/facts/ffsubway.htm.
Sabatini J. BART alcohol ads rile supes. San Francisco Examiner. October 14, 2006. Accessed on January 18, 2008. Available at: http://www.examiner.com/a-342970~BART_alcohol_ads_rile_supes.html?cid = rss-San_Francisco.
Victory! BART does the right thing and throws alcohol ads from the train. The Marin Institute website. Accessed on January 17, 2008. Available at: http://www.marininstitute.org/take_action/bart/index.htm?page=alert.
CBS outdoor: always on. CBS Outdoor website. Accessed on January 17, 2008. Available at: http://www.cbsoutdoor.com/about.php.
Exhibit M - policy governing advertising on MTA property. San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency website. Accessed on January 17, 2008:83. Available at: http://www.sfmuni.com/cms/brd/mta/documents/mx060801_v6.pdf.
Advertising and marketing code. The Beer Institute website. Accessed on January 17, 2008. Available at: http://www.beeresponsible.com/advertising/AdAndMarketingCode.html.
Letter from MUNI to CBS Outdoor. (January 2007), Accessed on January 17, 2008. Available at: http://www.marininstitute.org/cbs/MTA_Letter_to_CBS_Outdoor_on_Alcohol_Ads_1–19–07.pdf.
Underage drinking in Massachusetts: the facts. The Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation website. Accessed on January 17, 2008. Available at: http://www.udetc.org/factsheets/Massachusetts.pdf.
Constitutionally defensible restrictions on alcohol advertising in state publications and on state-owned or state-leased lands. The Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation website. Accessed on January 17, 2008. Available at: http://www.cslep.org/publications/CommercialspeechmemoAug04.pdf.
The author wishes to acknowledge the assistance of Bruce Livingston, Simon Rosen, and David Dominguez in the preparation of this article.
Simon is with the Marin Institute, San Rafael, CA, USA.
About this article
Cite this article
Simon, M. Reducing Youth Exposure to Alcohol Ads: Targeting Public Transit. J Urban Health 85, 506–516 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11524-008-9280-0
- Underage drinking
- Public transit
- Alcohol ads.