Washington, DC: The Fed's $1.5 billion anti-drug ad campaign fails to
influence teens to refrain from using illegal drugs, particularly
marijuana, according to an evaluation by Westat Inc. and the Annenberg
Public Policy Center for the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

"Kids know the difference between honest education and government
propaganda," said NORML Executive Director Keith Stroup. "They
acknowledge the reality that marijuana is not the same as heroin, even if
their government does not."

According to the review, teens exposed to the government's National Youth
Anti-Drug Media Campaign are no more likely to refrain from trying drugs
because of their exposure. "There [is] no pattern of significant
association between exposure and target outcomes for youth," the report
says. "Neither the overall results nor the subgroup analyses show
consistent evidence supportive of a direct Campaign effect."

The report defined the primary objective of the government's advertising
campaign as "reduc[ing] the number of young people who try marijuana."
Since 1997, the campaign has purchased enough advertising time to expose
adolescents to an average of 2.7 ads per week, including a pair of
controversial 2002 Super Bowl ads costing some $3.4 million.

However, the Westat and Annenberg review found "inadequate evidence to
support a claim of change in marijuana use thus far." In fact, the
report states that the only significant association attributable to the
ad campaign was an increase in marijuana use among 14- to 15-year-olds.
The evaluation also found "some evidence" of an increase in marijuana use
among suburban 14- to 18-year-olds.

"Despite spending billions in taxpayer's dollars, it appears the
government's media campaign is having just the opposite effect on
America's teens than the one lawmakers intended," Stroup said. Authors
measured the campaign's impact on marijuana use by surveying adolescent's
attitudes toward marijuana and evaluating their likelihood to avoid using
marijuana if it's available.

"In summary, thus far there is relatively little evidence for direct
effects of the Campaign on youth," authors concluded. "While there were
scattered significant positive results [among 12- to 13-years-olds,] they
were balanced by scattered significant negative results [among 14- to
18-year-olds.]"

The report is the third in a series reviewing the government program.
The Westat and Annenberg report focused on Phase III of the ad campaign,
a period that began in September 1999 and is planned to run at least
until the end of this spring.

For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup or Paul
Armentano of NORML at (202) 483-5500.



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