Cities Need Powers to Combat Alcohol and Tobacco Ads

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The 1999 Master Settlement Act, which outlawed tobacco advertising on billboards and transit furniture, and a voluntary pledge by outdoor advertisers not to advertise alcohol and tobacco within 500 feet of schools, playgrounds and churches are frequently flouted, according to study findings published online July 29 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

FRIDAY, Aug. 1 (HealthDay News) -- The 1999 Master Settlement Act, which outlawed tobacco advertising on billboards and transit furniture, and a voluntary pledge by outdoor advertisers not to advertise alcohol and tobacco within 500 feet of schools, playgrounds and churches are frequently flouted, according to study findings published online July 29 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Molly Scott, of the RAND Corp. in Arlington, Va., and colleagues conducted a study of 106 urban census tracts in pre-Katrina southern Louisiana and 114 in Los Angeles County to assess the extent to which advertisers comply with the Master Settlement Agreement and the Outdoor Advertising Association of America voluntary ban.

In Louisiana, over 25 percent of tobacco ads were in contravention of the Master Settlement Agreement and approximately one in five ads for alcohol or tobacco was not in compliance with the voluntary ban on advertising near schools, playgrounds and churches, the researchers report. In Los Angeles, 37 percent of alcohol ads and 25 percent of tobacco ads contravened the voluntary ban, and there was a 40 percent greater chance of these billboards near children in areas with low-income status or where a freeway was present, they report.

"Voluntary commitments by advertisers to protect children from outdoor alcohol and tobacco ads posted near schools, playgrounds and churches are ineffective," the authors write. "Legislation is needed to force advertisers to honor their pledge."

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