San Marcos, TX: Teenagers exposed to anti-marijuana public service announcements (PSAs) produced by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) are more likely to hold positive attitudes about the drug and are more likely to express their intent to use cannabis after viewing the advertisements, according to a study published in the May issue of the journal Addictive Behaviors.
Two hundred and twenty-six volunteers age 18- to 19-years old took part in the study. Participants viewed either a series of anti-marijuana PSAs accessed from the ONDCP website or a series of anti-tobacco advertisements. Investigators then surveyed viewers' attitudes toward the two substances by using a five-point scale (e.g., good-bad) and computerized implicit association tests (IATs). Researchers also measured respondents' intent to use either marijuana or tobacco via a 10-point scale (e.g., agree-disagree).
Investigators found that viewers expressed significantly fewer negative attitudes toward marijuana after viewing the ads. No such "boomerang effect" was noted among those who viewed anti-tobacco advertising.
"It appears that ... anti-marijuana public statement announcements used in national anti-drug campaigns in the US produce immediate effects [that are the] opposite [of those] intended by the creators of this campaign," authors concluded. "This reactance effect was triggered only by anti-marijuana ads [and] not by anti-tobacco ads. Therefore, it cannot be attributed to a general disposition [by adolescents] to respond with reactance (e.g. rebelliousness) to any anti-substance use persuasion."
Investigators added: "Students viewing anti-marijuana advertising [also] declared significantly higher intention to use this substance than students exposed to anti-tobacco ads, while controlling for pre-existing differences in attitudes to marijuana. ... [This] would suggest that exposure to anti-marijuana advertising might not only change young viewers attitudes to [become] more positive toward this substance, but also might directly increase [their] risk of using marijuana."
The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, initiated by Congress in 1998, has spent more than $2 billion in taxpayers' money and matching funds producing and airing anti-marijuana advertisements, including several alleging that the use of cannabis funds international terrorist activities.
For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Senior Policy Analyst, at (202) 483-5500. Full text of the study, "Explicit and implicit effects of anti-marijuana and anti-tobacco TV advertising," appears in the May issue of the journal Addictive Behaviors.