NY Times: June 19, 1990 – With a 12-year-old artist at his side, the city's Consumer Affairs Commissioner yesterday asked the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to overrule a decision not to show the young artist's contest-winning anti-smoking poster in the subways.
The poster is a drawing done last year by Melissa Antonow, when she was a fifth-grade pupil at Our Lady of Hope School in Middle Village, Queens. In a parody of Marlboro ads, the drawing shows a skeleton cowboy riding through a graveyard with tombstones reading Lung Cancer, Heart Disease and Emphysema. The slogan reads, ''Come to where to the Cancer is.''
Joseph W. Cherner, of the Coalition for a Smokefree City, which sponsored the contest to come up with the poster, joined the Commissioner, Mark Green, and Melissa at a news conference. He said his group was prepared to pay the cost of printing the ads if space were made available, as it is for other public service advertisements.
Poster Called 'Graffiti Prone'
Mr. Cherner said an official of a contractor that handles subway advertisements for the M.T.A., Gannett Transit, told him that it would not put up the poster because it might offend the company's many tobacco advertisers.
But Tito Davila, a spokesman for the M.T.A., and James Taggart, an official of Gannett Transit, said the poster had never been formally presented to either Gannett or to the authority.
Mr. Taggart acknowledged that when the poster was informally suggested by Mr. Cherner it had been rejected but he said that was because of its design, not its message. He said that the ad's line drawing was ''graffiti prone,'' which meant that the company ''would not have been able to maintain it.''
A public relations spokesman for Gannett, Jeff Tolvin of Howard Rubenstein Associates, said Gannett Transit has made space available for anti-smoking ads in Los Angeles and San Francisco and would do so in New York City if a more suitable ad was proposed.
Melissa, the young artist, later attended a ceremony at City Hall at which Mayor David N. Dinkins signed into local law a bill that bans the distribution of free sample cigarettes.