A Los Angeles advocacy group is attempting to get alcohol ads banned from public property throughout the city. It is recruiting ordinary citizens to help document what they say is a growing, excessive proliferation of these ads by taking pictures of them with their smartphones.
The Coalition to Ban Alcohol Ads on Public Property in Los Angeles is encouraging supporters to take pictures of alcohol ads on public property, including bus shelters, kiosks and newspaper racks, and send them in via text messages, along with details like proximity to schools, crosswalks, churches, parks, libraries, and community centers.
The coalition will gather the photos for presentation to the Los Angeles Public Safety Committee as evidence that they are “over-exposing vulnerable populations to seductive alcohol advertising,” especially underage Angelenos in areas frequented by minors.
Organizers hope that the campaign will put pressure on several committee members, who have thus far refused to support a motion to ban alcohol ads on city-owned and controlled property.
Council member Richard Alarcon, who proposed the motion, stated that the impact of "underage drinking on our city is devastating -- taking young lives and creating enormous financial costs for taxpayers in L.A." He believes that banning the ads in areas frequented by minors is the responsible choice.
Alcohol advertising on public property is easier to regulate than advertising on private property. There are fewer First Amendment issues when the government is involved as a market participant, which gives it the right to accept or reject certain types of advertising content similar to a private out-of-home advertising company.
Activists have several successful models for bans on alcohol advertising on public property, including a ban on alcohol advertising in public transit in San Francisco and a citywide ban on alcohol advertising on public property in Philadelphia (except for sports stadiums).
However, the advocates may still face an uphill battle, as council members may hesitate to jeopardize a steady source of revenue. The city of Los Angeles is facing a budget deficit of $900 million over the next four years.