Teen critics pan national anti-drug ads
August 8, 1999
From Correspondent Jonathan Karl
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- White House officials say a national advertising campaign has convinced teens to avoid drugs, but some high school students remain skeptical that the television ads are much of a deterrent.
President Bill Clinton, citing a national drug use report released last week, said the first phase of the ad campaign contributed to a slight decline in youth marijuana smoking in 1998, following a decade-long climb in teen drug use.
But in an informal poll, a panel of 17-year-old Fairfax County, Virginia, public school students who critiqued the commercials were not so sure.
"The baby with the knife, it doesn't make you think about drugs," one of the panelists, Jennifer, said about one of the TV spots. "It makes you think about little kids playing with sharp objects."
Another ad shows a woman who becomes pregnant after indulging in marijuana use. But the teens said the constant warnings about the dangers of drug use have dulled the message.
"It's just something fun to do at parties. They don't really think about what it's doing to their bodies, and they don't really care," Erin said.
According to the report, the number of teens who said they had tried marijuana decreased from about 43 percent to about 38 percent.
Tiffany, another panelist, provides more startling numbers. "I'd say probably 45 percent of my friends do it every day," she said.
Media campaign shows results, McCaffrey says
Barry McCaffrey, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said the percentage of youths who stayed away from drugs increased 8 percent the past year because of the ads.
But 17-year-old Jennifer told CNN, "Once you are surrounded by it and thinking about doing it anyway, and there is nothing better to do ... seeing a commercial is not going to change your mind that much. You may think about it for a couple minutes, but it's not going to impact your decision making."
The adolescent reviewers find the ads -- which include a Kate Moss look-alike clobbering everything in sight with a frying pan -- entertaining and in some cases memorable. But they think there is a better way to fight drug use by teens: Give teens other ways to entertain themselves.
The administration has budgeted almost $1 billion for the ad campaign, which began in 1998 and is slated to last a total of five years.
McCaffrey: Anti-drug campaign's success greater than expected
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