The Medical Marijuana Magazine


Spending Big Money in Campaign Against Drugs
Will These Ads Work With the Kids?
July 9, 1998

PETER JENNINGS So let’s take "A Closer Look" at this media campaign designed to keep kids off or get kids off illegal drugs. It is supposed to last for five years. Big money, as we said, $195 million, and that is only money for one year—this year. It is, as we said, big money. And it will go to a lot of big media companies, including ABC. Is it the best way to spend money in the campaign against the use of illegal drugs. There is certainly a debate about that. Here’s ABC’s Erin Hayes.

POLICE OFFICER Police! Search warrant, everybody on the ground!

ERIN HAYES, ABCNEWS (VO) The war to keep drugs away from kids fought on so many fronts has not been very successful. Use of many drugs by teenagers has doubled since 1992. Unable to stem the supply of drugs, the Clinton administration hopes the ad campaign can slow the demand.

(on camera) The ads have already been running on a test basis for four months in 12 cities, including here in Atlanta. The results—calls to the National Clearing House for Drug Information have increased 300 percent.

GEN BARRY MCCAFFREY, NATIONAL DRUG CONTROL POLICY So we know the ads are being seen and, by and large, they’re found credible and powerful.

ERIN HAYES (VO) But can the ads actually slow drug use among America’s children? The answer is as complicated as any teenager.

KEVIN MCENEANEY, PHOENIX HOUSE In real life, in real times, a youngster is going to be faced with a decision at some point. And I think, hopefully, an ad might have some impact on that decision. But it will be a lot of other forces will have come to play with that decision.

ERIN HAYES (VO) At best, most agree, the ads can serve as a catalyst to get kids thinking, parents talking.

JOSEPH CALIFANO, JR. NATIONAL CENTER FOR ADDICTION & SUBSTANCE ABUSE The two greatest influences on children in America are their families and their schools. To the extent that these ads bolster the family and the schools in encouraging kids not to use drugs they will be effective.

ERIN HAYES (VO) And Dr Paul Early (ph), who treats people with drug problems, says running ads is not enough. When kids go looking for treatment, they may not be able to get it.

DR PAUL EARLY The public sector in the Georgia area is swamped. It’s been running at overcapacity for years. All this is going to do is produce a larger backlog.

ERIN HAYES (VO) Indeed, even the ads’ biggest champions agree.

BARRY MCCAFFREY So I think we’re going to put enormous demands on the system that, in some cases, we can’t yet respond to.

ERIN HAYES (VO) Clearly, it will take more than an ad campaign to win this war. Erin Hayes, ABCNEWS, Atlanta.

PETER JENNINGS Well, in Atlanta, in fact, everywhere in the country today, the most important question that everybody has been asking has been very simple. Will it work with the kids? How will they react to the ads designed to appeal to kids quite young?

(VO) We walked across the street and set up a monitor to show some kids one of the ads. We talked to David and Carlos. They’re each 11, from New York City.

YOUNG WOMAN (ANTI—DRUG AD) What your family goes through. And your friends.

PETER JENNINGS (on camera) Do you think it’s a pretty strong message?

DAVID, AGE 11 Yes.

PETER JENNINGS Is this something you might remember?


PETER JENNINGS (VO) None of the kids we met here in 40 minutes appeared even slightly startled by the violence. Even 10—year—old Lisa.

(on camera) What did you think? (Lisa shrugs shoulders)

(VO) Vladco (ph) and Sophie, who are 17, Anya, who is 18, go to the high school just around the corner.

VLADCO, AGE 17 I know people that are on drugs. I know some people. And it’s just, you know—I know they’ve seen commercials like this and everything, you know, and they just laugh at it. It’s like nothing.

PETER JENNINGS (VO) Chris was here from Jackson, Mississippi. He thought the girl in the ad was effective.

CHRIS Because she’s is a teenager and she probably does, you know—she relates instead of, you know, seeing some old person getting out there and boring us.

PETER JENNINGS (VO) Most kids were basically noncommittal. Jessica and the others said they had all heard such anti—drug messages before.

(on camera) Is it the kind of message that you think would dissuade you from trying heroin?

JESSICA I guess so, yeah.

PETER JENNINGS Just one final note on this issue for tonight—the federal government is going to spend almost $16 billion this year in the anti illegal drug effort. That’s one—third more than 1990. Since 1990, we’re sad to report, drug use among teenagers has doubled.