Paul Armentano: Reason for Skepticism 

Paul Armentano: Reason for Skepticism 
Posted by CN Staff on August 09, 2002 at 14:05:14 PT
By Paul Armentano
Source: United Press International
What do you know? Congress may have finally found an anti-drug program it doesn't like. Just five years after its much-ballyhooed inception, the White House's national youth anti-drug media campaign is on the congressional chopping block. There is little wonder why. Despite spending nearly $2 billion in taxpayer dollars and matching funds to create an unprecedented series of anti-drug advertisements, a federally commissioned evaluation of the campaign found the ads hopelessly fail to discourage teens from trying drugs. 
Testifying before a Senate appropriations subcommittee last month, independent researchers from the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania informed Congress that the program has had no favorable effects on youths' attitudes or drug habits. Even more troublesome, their review discovered that repeated viewing of the ads stimulates the use of certain drugs among various age groups. "On some measures, there was evidence that early exposure to the federal Campaign predicted more pro-drug beliefs ... and more likelihood of initiation of marijuana use," explained Dr. Robert Hornick, co-author of the evaluation. "There is no other published evidence we know about that shows a negative effect like this of a large-scale campaign, although there is evidence of campaigns that were ineffective." Even federal drug czar John Walters concedes that the campaign has been a bust. Nevertheless, Walters wants Congress to fund the program at present levels - currently $180 million per year! "Continued support of the campaign will prove a wise investment in our youth," promised Walters. He maintained that the last five years of ads failed because they weren't provocative and hard-hitting enough. His solution? Refocus the campaign so that it focuses primarily on pot on the theme: "Smoke a joint; support Osama." Even more absurd, Walters' agency - the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy - announced it would rehire the Ogilvy & Mather advertising firm to produce its new line of anti-drug ads. This is the same agency the ONDCP canned in 2001 - not because the ads they created weren't working, but because the firm was caught overcharging the feds nearly $2 million. Thankfully, members of Congress appear skeptical that the White House's anti-drug ad program is worth saving. As well they should be. It should come as no surprise the fed's anti-drug ads are having the exact opposite effect on America's teens as the one intended. Teenagers know the difference between honest information and government propaganda. And while advertising executives and anti-drug warriors may find taxpayer-sponsored ads comparing drug use to fried eggs to be clever, the reality is that their target audience finds them dishonest and ridiculous. The bottom line? As long as the White House insists on substituting "reefer madness" for honest information, its ads will continue to have a negative impact on teens. Rather than continue down this failed path, federal officials ought to take a page from their more successful campaigns to discourage drunk driving and teen tobacco smoking - the latter of which has fallen by 36 percent since 1997. We have not achieved these results by banning the use of alcohol or tobacco, or by targeting and arresting adults who use them responsibly, but through honest, health and science based education campaigns. Until we apply these same principles to the responsible use of marijuana, Congress and our children have good reason to remain skeptical. Paul Armentano is a senior policy analyst for The NORML Foundation, an organization that works toward legalization of marijuana in the United States. Source: United Press InternationalAuthor: Paul Armentano, Senior Policy Analyst - NORMLPublished: August 9, 2002Copyright 2002 United Press InternationalWebsite: Contact: Article & Web Sites:NORML Transcripts: Do Drug Ads Work? May Face Protests From Losing Contenders Gets Anti-Drug Ads Contract
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Comment #4 posted by SpaceCat on August 09, 2002 at 15:34:18 PT
OT but amusing
I think most people here will get as big a kick out of this as I did- Got a call from my business partner the other day saying Tom DeLay's(House Majority Whip)office had called because we won a Small Business of the Year Award! Now this is particularly amusing because despite our best efforts to kill this business, it won't die, and also the fact that my (business)partner is an HIV-positive gay man! I called them back and they chatted me up, put on a recorded message from DeLay saying how we were the backbone of the country, etc. I really got my licks in when I refused to give them any money, (the real purpose of this whole scam, it seems) explaining that I felt the Republican party had strayed to far from its core values of limited government and that I tended to vote for third-party candidates. DEAD silence, followed by a lame "Well, we hope you'll be a part of us anyway". We'll see if they ever send me my "Ceremonial Gavel and picture of Bush the Lesser", LOL!  
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Comment #3 posted by SpaceCat on August 09, 2002 at 15:14:54 PT
The medium is not the message, it's the money
Not only dishonest and ridiculous, but they become code for engaging in the very behaviour they attempt to prevent. Seen the latest Fox ads for "That 70's Show"? VO: This is your brain. (Egg falls into frying pan) VO: This is your brain watching "That 70's Show". (Egg gets a smiley face. A bunch more eggs drop into the pan and get smiley faces).
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Comment #2 posted by AlvinCool on August 09, 2002 at 15:14:39 PT
I say continue
Why not continue the ads, but this time lets be honest! Lets put our Congressmen in these ads saying what they really represent instead of doging issues. Then we can boot the old farts out and replace them. Now where the heck did I put that lasso of truth that wonder woman left here.
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Comment #1 posted by Dan B on August 09, 2002 at 15:14:04 PT:
Great Article
I have always believed that the drug policy reformers (that's us) are not only more compassionate, but also (as a whole) more intelligent than the prohibitionists, and Paul Armentano serves to prove that point with this well-written, insightful article. Thanks, Paul, for giving us one more reason to be hopeful. With people who can write intelligent prose like yours, we can't lose the fight for true drug policy reform.Dan B
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