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New York bans alcohol ads on most city properties

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City officials say the loss of alcohol advertising revenue is justified by the effects of overconsumption.

New York

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.

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About 3 per cent of city-owned advertising space is dedicated to alcohol ads. In the 2018 fiscal year, the city received US$2.7 million in alcohol advertising revenue, a minuscule percentage of the US$92.5 billion executive budget that 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, 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.

Poorer neighbourhoods 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," 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 authorised, 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 will not 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' 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, DC-based group that represents the distilled spirits industry, criticised the ban, which was memorialised by an executive order signed by 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. NYTIMES