Success of Anti-Drug Ads Questioned


i wanna be cool too!
Oct 22, 2005
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Tennessee -- Regional and national surveys, including one tracking Knoxville students, differ on whether the federal anti-drug ad campaign over several years helped reduce illegal drug use among youths.
A recent analysis by the U.S. Government Accountability Office looked at a national survey by a contractor, Westat Inc., and concluded that there was "credible evidence" that a national TV, radio and print campaign "was not effective in reducing youth drug use" from 1998 to 2004. About $1.2 billion was spent during those years, GAO found.

By contrast, a four-year regional survey of Knoxville and Lexington, Ky., students in grades four to 12 found that the ad campaign targeting marijuana use in portions of 2002 and 2003 had a significant effect on youths. In that period, the percent of frequent substance abusers reporting marijuana use in the past 30 days dropped from about 18 percent to 13 percent, the study found.

The latter study, conducted by faculty at the University of Kentucky, Texas A&M and Duke, did random, confidential surveys each month with 100 Knoxville students and 100 Lexington students, according to Philip Palmgreen, a researcher at UK's communications department. The study ran from April 1999 through March 2003, involving nearly 10,000 students, and located cooperative students by telephone who later completed a confidential survey at their homes on a laptop computer.

"The great majority of students remembered seeing the anti-drug public service announcements frequently throughout the campaign," Palmgreen said in an interview.

GAO recommended that Congress cut funding on the ad campaign, which is costing about $100 million this year, until the White House drug control office can prove it is effective in reducing drug abuse.

Two U.S. House members from East Tennessee supported part or all of the ad campaign's work.

Knoxville Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. said anti-drug TV and radio advertising "if aimed at the right groups, could be very effective and very helpful. I'm sure in favor of spending whatever we need to spend to fight the drug problem based on what I've seen."

Duncan is a former Knox County Criminal Court judge who said many young people came before him charged with drug violations or other crimes. Often the young people came from a fatherless home, he said.

Both Duncan and U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, a Chattanooga Republican, praised the part of the campaign that urges parents to communicate regularly with their children on reasons for not abusing drugs. Both are parents.

"Parents have a very important role," Duncan said.

Wamp said he and one of his sons have watched some anti-drug commercials and did not think they were very effective. He said he would like more study on whether they are achieving the desired results.

The investment in the ad campaigns is very important, he said, whether it is about alcohol abuse or other drug abuse. At this point, however, "I'm not sure that the money is well spent." Some commercials "make drugs look mysterious or interesting or even cool. I think they have to be careful in these ads of being too cool or too cute with the kids."

Wamp favorably recalled Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" campaign. "It made its way to a slogan at the dinner table. Everybody knew what it was. I don't think that these (current) ads permeate our culture."

The White House's drug czar, John Walters, said the national survey by Westat had multiple flaws, is two years old, and does not include improvements in recent ad campaigns.

Other national surveys have found significant reductions in drug abuse, Walters said in a written response to the GAO study. One study documented a 19 percent decline in illegal drug use among eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders during the last four years, he said.

Cutting the budget of the national anti-drug ad campaign "could have far-reaching and unfavorable consequences," Walters warned. Mass media and popular culture with a pro-drug message need a counter message, he said.

In grades K-12 in Knox County schools, officials still are processing a drug survey of students from last year, said Marty Iroff, an administrator of student services that include drug and violence prevention.

Schools, parents and the federal government have roles in helping youths avoid drugs, he said. An ad campaign can help in the combined effort, he said.

"I'm scared for the drug prevention world if the federal government starts to cut back on their monies," Iroff said. "That's a major concern.

"As soon as you turn your back on it, it tends to blow up again. I definitely think that adults, parents for sure, need to be more involved with youth at all levels."

Note: Study finds marijuana use down by Knoxville, Lexington students .

Newshawk: Mayan
Source: Knoxville News-Sentinel (TN)
Author: Richard Powelson
Published: September 5, 2006
Copyright: 2006 The Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.

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hash for humanity
Aug 21, 2006
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Anti-drug ads introduce to kids what drugs are.

Anti-drug ads introduce to kids how to get drugs.

Anti-drug ads introduce a seed into a teen's brain.

Anti-drug ads are the most counterproductive, wasteful bunch of hooey to some this way since....since....'We believe nicotine is non-habit forming.'

It's like this....the only people that have any business educating youth about what drugs are, do, and mean to an individual are...


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