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Critics Of MADD's New Anti-Drug Billboard Warn It May Harm Tourism

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- Union Square's newest billboard isn't selling anything to shoppers. It's warning tourists and putting the pressure on city officials to crack down on San Francisco's drug problem.

The billboard reads, "Famous the world over for our brains, beauty and now, dirty-cheap fentanyl," in reference to San Francisco's opioid problem.

"I think it's not a great reputation for a city to have," said Sofie Jensen, a tourist from Denmark. "Better to be known for the beautiful bridge, and the beautiful city because we really like this city."

"I am a parent, I have two baby girls myself, I think it's sad, at least they're doing something about it, informing everybody," said Maggie Ramirez, a first-time visitor from Las Vegas.

The bottom of the billboard reads: "It's time to close San Francisco's open-air drug markets."

KPIX 5 met Meaghan Emmons, a tourist from Pennsylvania, who says she is a recovering addict.

"I think education is our way out of that, if there's a way out of substance abuse, people dying. addiction is a sad disease," she said.

The San Francisco Travel Association, The Hotel Council of San Francisco, the Union Square Alliance and The Golden Gate Restaurant Association issued the following joint statement Monday regarding the billboard going up in Union Square.

"There are no words sufficient to console the pain of those impacted by addiction across the United States. Here in San Francisco, our hospitality community has been proactive and focused in our efforts to push our elected officials to clean up the open air drug dealing that's sadly visible in parts of our city. The passionate campaign being launched today by MADD, although impactful, is not the solution as it will only hurt local small businesses and our hospitality workers who just now are beginning to crawl out of the economic disaster caused by COVID and its continuing fallout. We respectfully ask that MADD join with us in pushing for solutions while supporting our tourism industry workers."

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