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Brooklyn Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (D, 51st District) wants to ban alcohol ads on buses and subways. The ads provide just $3 to $5 million of the $100 million in revenue the Metropolitan Transportation Authority gets from ad sales and the MTA has not taken a position on the proposed legislation. The state’s Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services did express support for the legislation calling it "consistent with our strategy of preventing alcoholism across the state."

Ortiz, who is chairman of the Assembly Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, supports a lowering of the drinking age to 18. Interestingly, he seemed to link the ban to the underage drinking problem in comments he made to the Daily News, saying, We have so many problems in our society with underage drinking that we don't need this kind of advertising in our public transit systems."

He also sees himself as a pioneer on getting such legislation at the state level, telling the News, "if we can pass this in New York, I think the whole nation will pay attention." However, a Pennsylvania Assemblyman has proposed a similar ban in his state. So Ortiz does have a bit of competition in getting national notice.

The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, Inc., a trade group for the industry, does have a code of responsibility for its members and claim they are “committed to the responsible placement and content of their brand communications.” However, they do not seem to have a specific policy on transit advertising, but a spokesperson for the group called such bans ineffective.

This type of ban has been tried elsewhere. Bay Area Rapid Transit in the San Francisco area instituted a voluntary ban on alcohol advertisements, but reversed itself last year. However, this wasn’t something mandated by state law, as the case would be with this proposal.

Photo of vintage Hiram Walker Whiskey subway ad from thelexiphane on flickr