Should a city use public property to advertise alcohol? The City of Los Angeles is including the idea in a new contract that would allow alcohol advertising on public property. L.A. community members have come together to propose an amended contract.
The Board of Public Works is currently reviewing a contract that would grant Martin Outdoor Media LLC exclusive right to place advertising on city bus benches throughout L.A. for the next ten years. The contract allows Martin Outdoor Media, a Florida-based street furniture company, to act as the city’s agent and broker for the leasing of advertising and display. In other words, the City of Los Angeles will benefit financially from the advertisements–including alcohol ads.
The annual cost of alcohol-related harm in Los Angeles is estimated at $10.8 billion–the highest amount in California. Youth in markets with more exposure to alcohol advertising start drinking at earlier ages, consume more alcohol, and engage in more risky drinking behaviors than other youth. Youth in markets with greater alcohol advertising expenditures drink more. Alcohol advertising is already pervasive in Los Angeles, and adding 6,000 bus benches will only make the problem worse.
Martin Outdoor Media would like to have voluntary limits for alcohol ads within 500 feet from schools or churches. But the City of Los Angeles does not have to bend to corporate dictates; as noted in Marin Institute’s 2007 study, many cities in the U.S. already ban alcohol advertising on mass transit systems. Government property should not be used to provide an opportunity for corporate marketing of potentially dangerous products, especially to youth.