When a Madison Metro bus roared past me covered with images of Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer cans and Rosie the Riveter with a “Pabst” tattoo on her patriotically muscled forearm, I thought “What are you thinking?” More than an eye-sore, these buses are literally increasing the likelihood that Madison’s children will begin drinking earlier and drink more once they begin with every trip they make.
There are more than a dozen scholarly studies indicating child and youth exposure to alcohol advertising has an impact on when children and youth begin to drink and the amount of alcohol consumed. Those big Pabst buses increase youth exposure to alcohol advertising whenever they roll past our schools, parks and recreational areas. The research is so compelling these transit systems banned alcohol advertising:
- Chicago Transit Authority
- Bay Area Rapid Transit District
- Golden Gate Transportation District
- Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District
- Alameda Contra Costa Transit District
- San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency
- Los Angeles County, Metropolitan Transport Authority
- City & County of Honolulu Department of Transportation Services
- Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon
- Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority
- Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority
- King County Seattle Metro Transit Division\
- Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County Texas (Houston area)
- Miami-Dade Transit
- Orange County Transportation Authority
Why isn’t Madison Metro considering a ban on alcohol advertising?
Philadelphia banned alcohol advertising and naming rights on all municipal property, including bus shelters. Philadelphia’s children do not have to wait for the bus looking at alcohol ads. But in Madison, children get onto a bus covered with alcohol ads that drives them to school increasing the youth exposure to alcohol advertising all along the way.
If a child begins drinking alcohol at age 15 or earlier that child’s lifetime risk of alcohol dependence jumps to 41% according to a National Academies of Science report (2004). And we know that youth exposure to alcohol advertising contributes to earlier alcohol use among youth. What else do we need to know?
The next time you see a child, ask yourself: What is Madison Metro thinking? Clearly thought was not involved in the decision to turn the bus system into rolling Pabst billboards. Madison Metro should ban alcohol advertising for the health and safety of our children.