Share & Connect
Massachusetts ranks among the top ten states for underage drinking, but pending legislation might help the Commonwealth to lose that distinction. One factor that raises the likelihood of underage drinking is exposure to alcohol advertising. Massachusetts can reduce this exposure by passing House Bill 851, which would prohibit alcohol advertising on state property.
Last month marked the first time an act prohibiting alcohol advertising on state property moved forward from initial committee consideration to the Ways and Means Committee. A press conference will be held on January 26, 2012, at 3:30 P.M. at the Park Street T Station to show support of HB851.
HB851 has major support as it heads to the Ways and Means Committee. Representative Martin Walsh from Dorchester, the bill’s sponsor, called it “an important piece of public policy that protects the health and well-being of young people in Massachusetts.”
Former Governor Michael Dukakis and his wife, Kitty, are also proponents, having worked tirelessly to convince the MBTA to ban alcohol ads on the Commonwealth’s public transit system. “At a time when we are trying to encourage young people to act wisely and responsibly, my favorite transit system should not be doing the opposite,” says former Governor of Massachusetts, Michael Dukakis. In fact, most major US cities have already banned alcohol ads from public transit.
Most importantly, the bill has the support of those it will affect most. Giovanni Colon, a junior at Brighton High School, supports the bill, saying, “I am disappointed when I see alcohol advertisements on state property. It’s like Massachusetts wants young kids to start drinking.” For many, alcohol advertising on state property like the MBTA, places an undue burden on youth in the Greater Boston area. As Giovanni said, “People would never dream of putting alcohol ads on yellow school buses, so why should they be allowed to put them on our school buses?” At least 20,000 youth use the T daily, many of them going to and from school.
The bill’s opponents argue that prohibiting alcohol advertising would cause a financial burden for state-owned property holders, but this is not an issue of finances – it is a matter of health and welfare for the Commonwealth. The more alcohol advertising kids are exposed to, the more likely they are to drink – a fact that costs the Commonwealth $1.4 billion annually.
When it comes to advertising on state property, Representative Walsh’s message is clear: “This bill only bans alcohol advertisements for the purpose of making sure we are not sending the wrong message to the people of the Commonwealth.”
In fact, the T has already said it will not accept alcohol advertising on its website, and there appears to be no shortage of advertisers for the T; one company that coordinates advertising on the MBTA cited a six-month waiting list for advertisers of various products who are interested in station domination campaigns that blanket MBTA stations with a particular brand’s advertisements.