MTA made wrong decision to ban alcohol advertising

MTA made wrong decision to ban alcohol advertising
By Jay Hibbard

The decision by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to ban alcohol advertising (TimesLedger story/ Nov. 3) is misguided and unsupported by the scientific research.

Parents and other adults are the most influential factors in a youth’s decision whether or not to drink alcohol, not advertising. In fact, over the last 10 years, underage drinking has declined by more than 20 percent in New York and binge drinking is at an all-time low.

Decades of scientific research show that alcohol advertising does not cause someone to begin drinking, let alone abuse alcohol. The assertion that alcohol advertising causes underage drinking is based on highly flawed advocacy-driven “research” that has been refuted by advertising experts in the scientific community.

For example, a recent study from the University of Texas analyzed the relationship between annual alcohol advertising expenditures and per capita sales of beer, wine and spirits in the U.S. from 1971-2012. Over a 40-year span, the researchers found that per-capita alcohol consumption remained essentially constant, with changes occurring only between the three beverage alcohol categories – beer, wine and distilled spirits. Conversely, during the same time frame, alcohol advertising media expenditures increased almost 400 percent.

The University of Texas researchers concluded that advertising is a means to gain market share and “proposals to restrict or curtail truthful, commercial messages about a legal product work against rational public policy.” The researchers also emphasized that “the outcomes of this study can be used to inform relevant public policy discussions regarding alcohol beverage advertising.”

The nation’s distillers are committed to responsible advertising and have a proud and proven history of successful self-regulation through our industry’s Code of Responsible Practices. The FTC, the lead federal agency charged with consumer protection, has repeatedly reaffirmed the spirits industry’s responsible advertising practices.

Other localities, including Chicago, Charlotte and Washington D.C., have recently overturned bans on alcohol advertising on public transit with each city experiencing absolutely no negative effects. We urge the MTA to reconsider its decision and base its policy on scientific evidence, not scaremongering.

Jay Hibbard

Vice President of the Distilled Spirits Council

Washington, D.C.