Advertisements promoting “Coors Light” beer that cover the outside and inside of Metro Rail cars will remain, despite appeals by some Erie County lawmakers to discontinue them.
Legislator Timothy Hogues and Legislature Chairwoman Betty Jean Grant, both Democrats who represent heavily minority districts on Buffalo’s East Side had sponsored a resolution asking the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority to discontinue the beer ads. They argued that the ads target school children and minorities.
“My point is, you don’t see them on buses that are going to Amherst, Williamsville, Cheektowaga, only on the subway train that’s downtown that serves, more than likely … the urban population, the school children and those who utilize those substance-abuse clinics. You’ve got about five on Main Street,” said Grant, after Tuesday’s hearing.
A major concern, said Grant and Hogues, is that teenagers who ride the subway on the way to and from school are exposed to the ads, which turn the Metro Rail into a version of the Coors “Silver Bullet” train featured in the beermaker’s television campaign.
“They have a captive, very young audience that uses that mode of transportation, and on the picture on the billboard it says ‘Great Beer. Great Responsibility.’ I don’t know if they’re showing great responsibility by … plastering these types of ads all over our public transportation which our youth, basically minority youth in the city, are using for transportation to go to school,” said Hogues.
Thomas Wheeler Jr. of the Erie County Council for the Prevention of Alcohol and Substance Abuse spoke at the meeting, arguing that children develop brand loyalty when they’re exposed to catchy advertising.
NFTA representatives on Tuesday declined to make an appearance before the Legislature’s Economic Development Committee to discuss the resolution.
The resolution was destined to remain in committee Tuesday.
Legislator Edward Rath, R-Amherst, questioned whether the resolution would be more appropriately addressed in the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee.
“I would not object to it being referred to the Health and Human Services Committee,” said Grant.
Committee Chairman Thomas Loughran, a Democrat and an Amherst tavern owner, expressed concern that the resolution seeks to make a crime of alcohol consumption, but he agreed that the resolution warranted further discussion.
Legislator Joseph C. Lorigo, C-West Seneca, asked whether the resolution amounted to overlegislating.
“While I certainly understand the concerns that Chairwoman Grant and Legislator Hogues have mentioned … but I just worry that we’re getting a little too overreaching with something like this,” Lorigo said.
“I think when we start legislating what type of ads they should run, I think we may be getting dangerously close to territory of overreaching legislation. I’d hate see them lose ad revenue and come crying to the county for more money, and then we say we don’t have it or … we’re going to have to raise property taxes or … they have to cut more routes, whether the routes are suburban routes or city routes,” Lorigo added.
Dorothy Furtney, a legislative assistant, said she asked NFTA spokesman C. Douglas Hartmayer last Thursday to attend Tuesday’s committee meeting.
Hartmayer told The Buffalo News after the meeting that the NFTA board found the ads to be in good taste and that the ad didn’t target any specific age group or demographic.