Washington, DC: White House sponsored anti-drug ads targeting marijuana and alleging that recreational drug use funds terrorism fail to alter teens' perceptions of pot or reduce its use among young people, according to a four-year evaluation performed by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania and commissioned by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
"There is little evidence of direct favorable Campaign effects on youth, either for the Marijuana Initiative period or for the Campaign as a whole," the evaluation concluded. "Youth who were more exposed to Campaign messages are no more likely to hold favorable beliefs or intentions about marijuana than are youth less exposed to those messages, both during the Marijuana Initiative period and over the entire course of the Campaign."
Since 1997, Congress has spent more than $1.2 billion in taxpayer dollars and matching funds on a federal media campaign, titled "The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign," which produces and buys air time for public service announcements condemning drug use, particularly marijuana. Despite the campaign's consistently poor performance, lawmakers last fall voted to continue funding the program at a cost of approximately $150 million per year.
As in previous years, some of that funding will pay to air public service announcements produced by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) during the Super Bowl broadcast - a decision that NORML Foundation Executive Director Allen St. Pierre says violates CBS Network policy.
"CBS has a stated policy of not running ads on 'controversial issues of public importance,'" St. Pierre said. "If CBS is to be consistent, then they must also adhere to this policy when it comes to the ONDCP's ads. Marijuana decriminalization currently enjoys 72% support among the American public, according to the latest CNN/Time polling data. Clearly this is a 'controversial issue of public importance' that divides American public opinion, and any public service announcement on the subject that promotes only one side of this issue must be considered an issue ad."
To date, more than 3,500 e-mails have been sent to CBS through NORML's website urging the network to drop the federal anti-drug ads. "These ads are nothing more than government propaganda," St. Pierre said. "And it's propaganda that the federal government's own reviews admit is a miserable failure."
This latest evaluation by the Annenberg Public Policy Center is the sixth major review performed by the university think-tank, which has consistently found the federal ad campaign to be ineffective. According to a January 2003 report, adolescents who most often viewed the White House anti-drug ads demonstrated "no statistically significant ... improvements in beliefs and attitudes," and tended to "move more markedly in a 'pro-drug' direction as they aged than those who were exposed" to fewer advertisements. Following the release of that report, the White House announced that they would no longer fund the Center to perform bi-annual evaluations.
Future reviews of the White House's Media Campaign will likely be conducted by the Partnership for a Drug Free America, a federally funded communications organization that co-produces many of the Campaign's anti-drug ads.
For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of the NORML Foundation at (202) 483-5500. Text of the study, entitled "Evaluation of the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign: 2003 Report of Findings," is available online at:
Information on NORML's e-mail campaign to CBS is available online at: