Back during Deval Patrick’s second term as Massachusetts governor, liquor ads began appearing all over MBTA property.
Mayor Martin Walsh was then a state legislator from Dorchester and one of the most active people in recovery in the Commonwealth. He began filing legislation to ban those ads on T property and was joined by a broad coalition of groups and advocates angry about the use of state property to promote drinking, especially among young people. At the time, the MBTA was exposing approximately 54 percent of Boston Public School students to alcohol advertising on an average weekday. This movement to ban alcohol advertising on the T was grounded in solid research that linked alcohol advertising to underage drinking.
Of course, T officials would then race up the State House and argue strongly against then-Representative Walsh’s bill on the grounds that it was producing much needed revenue for the T — and the bill would be killed. One day I was talking about this with my husband, the former governor, and he said to me, “In this state, the governor has full responsibility for the T. Why don’t you and Marty go see him and ask him to simply end liquor advertising on the T — period. There are plenty of other things the T can advertise that don’t lead to alcoholism and its consequences.”
And so Marty Walsh and I met with Deval Patrick, told him about what was going on, and asked him to stop it. He agreed, and within a matter of months liquor ads disappeared from the MBTA. Those of us who had fought our way back to recovery and were determined to help others do the same — people like Marty and me — were grateful to Governor Patrick for acting quickly and decisively against the use of state facilities to encourage drinking, especially among young people.
Several weeks ago and much to our astonishment, the T decided to put liquor ads back on its property. This comes at a time when the Baker administration says it cares about addiction and has mounted a major effort to do something about the opioid epidemic that is sweeping Massachusetts and the country and is getting worse, not better.
But isn’t the administration aware of the fact that addiction often begins with alcohol and that many more people die of alcoholism in this state and country than opioids? How can you be serious about cutting down on addiction in the Commonwealth when you are using public property to get people to drink?
I have a suggestion for the Governor and the people that are working with him and the Legislature on these problems. Sit down with young people in the Greater Boston area and beyond who are active in this movement. Listen to them as they talk about why they are so concerned. Let them tell you what an impact those ads are having on their friends and neighbors.
And then do what Deval Patrick did.
Get rid of liquor ads on the T, and don’t bring them back.
Kitty Dukakis is the wife of former governor Michael Dukakis.