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Harlem protesters paint over cigarette, alcohol ads

By RHEA MANDULO

NEW YORK -- A prominent Harlem minister and some 50 health-conscious New Yorkers painted over a host of cigarette and liquor ads Saturday in protest against two vices they claimed were more dangerous to the community than drug abuse.

'If the black man in Harlem has a shorter life expectancy than (a man) in Bangladesh, part of that is from alcohol and cigarette abuse,' said the Rev. Calvin Butts, pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church, referring to a recent study conducted by a local hospital.

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'Alcohol takes more lives than crack,' he said. 'We're trying to take away the negative influence of alcohol and cigarettes in our commnity. These ads have an adverse affect on young people.'

The protesters painted over six advertisements in the area near Butt's Harlem church in the first of a series of demonstrations the minister said he planned to direct each week.

Police said there were no arrests.

Ads for Southern Comfort, Canadian Club and Christian Bros. liquors and Newport and Salem cigarettes were among those targeted by some 50 protesters, the minister said.

Two of the ads were posted on 138 Street between Adam Clayton Powell and Malcolm X boulevards, where the church is located, Butts said. The others were on nearby blocks.

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Butts singled out several ads as being particularly offensive.

'One Salem ad had 'Alive with pleasure,' and if you've ever seen anyone dying from lung cancer, you'll understand how ironic that is,' Butts said.

Another cigarette ad says 'And forget the rest,' he continued. 'What is the rest we've got to forget about -- family, society, going to church, saving our money?'

Butts said he has called people from churches all over the city to join in the effort.

'We're asking all Christian people to stop drinking and if they did stop drinking, we'd close the liquor stores,' he said.

The sign painting, which began at 9:50 a.m., will continue in other parts of Harlem next week, said Butts, who heads the church once run by Powell, the famed civil rights activist who became a U.S. congressman.

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