Students claim anti-drug ads are ineffective, waste of money

Posted 4:18 p.m. Feb. 25

by Mira Katz
U-WIRE (DC BUREAU)

(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON – Student activists are furious over a new “misleading and offensive” White House ad that draws a link between recreational drug users and terrorism.

The $130 million ad campaign portrays terrorists purchasing weapons and bomb materials with illegal drug money from young drug users. Television spots began airing during the Super Bowl.

Ogilvy & Mather, a top advertising firm, won the contract to manage the anti-drug campaign’s paid advertising component. The company’s New York office will help target television, radio, newspapers, magazines, outdoor billboards and the Internet.

The campaign is aimed at all venues that reach young people, including movie theaters, buses, subways and even basketball backboards.

Members of the national Students for a Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) said the ad over simplifies terrorism by ignoring that many legal consumer goods can be connected to terrorism. Activists also called the ad campaign ineffective, saying it is not likely to persuade young people.

“These commercials are misleading and offensive,” said Darrell Rogers, SSDP National out reach coordinator. “They are blaming the consumer or those with a serious health problems, the addict, for the government’s failed eradication policies. This is why the Office of National Drug Control Policy is scapegoating the user and the addict.”

SSDP is a national organization that is, “committed to providing education on harms caused by the War on Drugs, working to involve youth in the political process, and promoting an open, honest, and rational discussion of alternative solutions to our nation’s drug problems,” according to their mission statement.

Rogers cited the diamond industry and specifically the DeBeers Company for funding death squads, civil war and genocide in the Congo, Sierra Leon and Liberia, undermining the government’s emphasis on illegal drugs.

In December some congressional leaders praised President George W. Bush’s selection of John P. Walters to head the ONDCP.

“This confirmation will add another, much-needed weapon to our arsenal in the war against terrorism,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said. “We know that terrorist organizations routinely launder the proceeds from drug trafficking and use the funds to support and expand their operations internationally, including the purchasing and trafficking of illegal weapons.”

The president’s National Drug Control Strategy seeks to reduce use of illegal drugs by 10 percent over two years, and 25 percent over five years. These goals apply both to drug use among young Americans 12 to 17 and adults.

Overall for 2003 the Bush administration proposed $3.8 billion for drug treatment, an increase of more than 6 percent over 2002. This includes a $100 million increase in treatment spending for 2003 as part of a plan to add $1.6 billion over five years.

The new drug plan was announced only weeks after Noelle Bush, 24, daughter of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was arrested for trying to illegally obtained prescription drugs.

The budget, sent to Congress in earlier this month for approval, earmarks $50 million of new treatment funding for areas with greatest need.

Sam McCree, president of the George Washington University chapter of SSDP, called the new advertisements “first and foremost an outrage, which would be a light way to put it.”

The GWSSDP is preparing to put out a pamphlet that will attempt to educate students about drugs and will also have a few pages discussing the effects of the current commercials on television. On the national level, Rogers said that although SSDP does not have a budget comparable to the government, the organization will attempt to balance the scales with outreach.

“We have many dedicated people working here, and they are trying to make people aware of what they are actually being told,” Rogers said.

Using the media to fight the war on drugs is part the president’s National Drug Control Strategy. It is based on three principles: stopping drug use before it starts, healing America’s drug users and disrupting the illegal drug market.

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