In-Your-Face Ads Turn Some Kids Off Drugs!

In-Your-Face Ads Turn Some Kids Off Drugs!
Posted by FoM on August 04, 1999 at 22:19:56 PT
Government's $1 billion media blitz makes headway
Source: CS Monitor
The eighth-grader from the Bronx is vehemently opposed to any kind of drug use - be it tobacco, alcohol, or marijuana. 
Nicole Apollon would rather tap dance than get high. "Drugs mess up your mind, when you try to think about something it gets all scrambled up and confused," she says. Ms. Apollon's attitude reflects what Washington policymakers say is a shift in America's adolescents away from illicit drug use. Throughout most of the 1990s, teen use of marijuana, stimulants and hard drugs steadily climbed. Two years ago, use rates began to stabilize. Now there are indications that more kids like Nicole could start to bring use rates back down. Television ads could be playing a pivotal role. "We're confident that if you can shape youth attitudes, you can change their drug-taking behavior," says Gen. Barry McCaffrey (ret.), director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). This week, General McCaffrey and President Clinton rolled out the third phase of their billion-dollar five-year antidrug media campaign begun in 1997. It's the largest and most comprehensive stage in the only scientifically based antidrug media campaign ever undertaken in the United States. And McCaffrey and Clinton both crowed over its unexpected success so far. "If you're a teenager or a parent it is nearly impossible to avoid seeing or hearing our antidrug messages on television or radio several times a month," Clinton said on Monday. "[It] appears to be working even better than we thought." An evaluation of the media campaign's second phase, funded by ONDCP, found that the campaign had significantly changed kids' attitudes. One commercial has an angry young white woman smashing a frying pan around a kitchen to demonstrate what heroin-use can do to someone. Another has an earnest black girl talking about how crack had destroyed her brother and how she wants to become a teacher to let other kids know to never do drugs. "Girlfriend, you are beautiful," says the narrator. The percentage of kids who said they "learned a lot about drugs from the ads" jumped from 44 to 55 percent, according to the ONDCP's evaluation. The percentage of kids who agreed that the ads "made them stay away from drugs" increased from 61 to 69 percent. The study was based on surveys conducted at the beginning and end of the six-month pilot, which was launched in early summer of 1998. Nicole says she's seen several of the ads: "They make me think that drugs are a bad thing." Researchers had not expected to see significant attitude changes for at least another year. And many hope the findings of the ONDCP survey will signal the beginning of a real turnaround in adolescent drug use. The University of Michigan's 1998 Monitoring the Future Study, based on data collected before the media campaign got under way, had found that teen drug use had stabilized or even begun to decrease in most categories. The findings released this week are adding to researchers' optimism. "There is no magic cure, there's no magic single prevention device," says Dr. Alan Leshner, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, "but there's no question that you can change attitude through the media." But critics charge that the media campaign does not target alcohol, which studies show adolescents are far more likely to abuse than drugs. This June, several legislators tried to put alcohol under the ONDCP's purview, but failed. Instead, lawmakers approved McCaffrey's plan to study the creation of a separate antialcohol campaign. Other critics are also concerned that the antidrug media messages aren't tough enough to reach kids who are already in trouble. In four focus groups conducted early this year at various Department of Juvenile Justice facilities in Maryland, juvenile offenders were asked about the ads. Many said they'd seen the ads, but weren't impressed. "The commercials should show real effects - not smashing stuff like they do in the heroin commercial," said one offender. But ONDCP officials defend the content of their ads, noting they're designed and scientifically derived as prevention tools - to influence kids before they start using, or before they've progressed very far in their experimentation. Leshner's office will monitor the next phase of the media campaign, which include hundreds of new ads in 11 different languages. "As we learn what's working and not working, adjustments can be made," he says. "This is not just a yes-no evaluation." But some researchers who deal with high-risk kids such as juvenile offenders, would like the ONDCP to expand its efforts. "Perhaps it would be useful to do some sort of market analysis to find out what type of messages high-risk kids would be receptive to," says Eric Wish, director at the Center for Substance Abuse Research, University of Maryland. Thursday, August 5, 1999 
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Comment #2 posted by T.X. on December 24, 2000 at 22:58:47 PT
The only sane option
Legalise it, across the board. Not just pot: heroin, coke, LSD, the lot. Kids - and more importantly EVERYONE should have the option to choose freely on the drug issue and not be criminalised for their decision. Possesion of any drug should IN NO WAY BE ILLEGAL. Anti drug campaigners, Republicans and Republican voting democrats can burn in hell as far as Im concerned.
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on August 04, 1999 at 22:28:58 PT:
Antidrug Contradictions
August 5, 1999By Pat M. HoltChristian Science Monitor contradiction that has always been in our national drug policy is coming to light. It began when a survey showed that more high school students drink beer than smoke pot. This prompted some members of Congress and others, including Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD), to suggest to Barry McCaffrey, the president's drug czar, that beer be included among the substances teenagers are discouraged from using. Mr. McCaffrey, and others involved in antidrug efforts, said no. Targeting beer might diffuse the message about other drugs, and anyway they lacked legal authority. Very well, then, said Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D) of New Jersey and Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D) of California, we'll give you the authority. This touched off a massive, if underreported, lobbying battle on Capitol Hill, pitting the beer and wine industries in support of the administration against Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the surgeon general, and the American Medical Association. So far, the industry, led by the National Beer Wholesalers Association, is winning, but the argument isn't settled. The trouble is in trying to outlaw some drugs, most prominently cocaine and marijuana, while regulating others equally or more dangerous, mainly alcohol and tobacco. This "outlaw" policy includes public information campaigns against using the proscribed drugs and treatment programs for addicts, but its main thrust is enforcing prohibition by putting people in jail. This has resulted in the construction of more prisons, but it has not done much about drugs. Those who defend this policy use the same logic heard so tiresomely about Vietnam during the Johnson administration: What we are doing is not working, so we ought to do more of it. As if to underline the point, McCaffrey has recommended an additional $1 billion in antidrug aid for Colombia and nearby Andean and Caribbean nations. Greater harm is done by the drug trade than by the drugs themselves. Because the trade is illegal, dealers charge a premium to cover the risk of going to jail if they're caught. This is generating billions of dollars, all in cash and all beyond the effective control of governments. It is corrupting our society. It is the driving force of many of the gang wars and murders in our cities. It is the motivation for a disproportionate percentage of income-generating crimes such as robbery, burglary, and theft committed by addicts looking for money to pay high drug prices. In contrast, violent crimes - murder and assault among others - are more likely to be committed by people under the influence of alcohol than of other drugs. Drug money has made Colombia ungovernable and Mexico nearly so. It is responsible for much of the corruption of police and other public officials in drug-plagued countries. This will surely spread to the United States if it is not stopped. Without the money provided by the drug trade, both the violence and the corruption will necessarily be greatly reduced. The way to remove the money is to make the trade legal so that it can be regulated. Alcohol provides a useful guidepost. Used in excess, it is so disruptive of societies, families, and personal lives that we once tried to prohibit it - "a noble experiment" (Herbert Hoover's description) that gave its name to an era. The people this saved from the corner tavern did not offset the social harm that came with the rise of bootlegging and gangsterism - precisely what is happening today with respect to cocaine and marijuana. So we abandoned prohibition and turned to regulation. We have, for example, made it illegal for teenagers to drink and for anybody to drive a car while drunk. People still flout the law to do these things. Six times more teenagers die from alcohol than from all illegal drugs combined, Mr. Lautenberg says - all the more reason to mount a vigorous campaign to deter them from drinking. Consider the example of tobacco. When medical studies suggested a link between cigarettes and cancer, we did not react by outlawing cigarettes. Instead we began a steady, relentless campaign to persuade people to stop or not start smoking. This has dramatically reduced smoking. What would the black market be like if we'd taken the other route and tried to outlaw tobacco products? Alcohol and tobacco are greater threats to the public health than cocaine and marijuana. We meet these threats with a little coercion (controlling the circumstances in which people drink and the places they smoke) and a lot of persuasion. Treasury agents poured a lot of booze down the drain during Prohibition yet people continued drinking. Legalizing cocaine and marijuana won't solve the drug problem, but taking the money from the narcotraffickers will make it manageable. *Pat M. Holt, is a Washington writer on foreign affairs.
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