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Teens and Marijuana

Marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug in the United States. It tends to be the first illegal drug that teens use. Nearly one in ten teens ages 12 to 17 currently used marijuana in the United States. Nearly a quarter of eighth graders reported that they had already tried it. A 1997 survey of Michigan high-school students showed that 48 percent of students surveyed had tried marijuana and 28 percent were current users.

"Adolescents are particularly at risk of adverse reactions from hallucinogen use as they enter puberty, a time of rapid physical and emotional changes. Hallucinogens are particularly dangerous because the effects are so unpredictable. They can cause violent behavior in some and suicidal tendencies in others. As memory, perception, and judgment are clouded under the influence, users are at risk of severe injuries, overdose, and death from drowning, burns, falls, and car accidents. Sometimes, hallucinogen use can uncover severe mental disorders, such as schizophrenia or severe depression." Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse

New York, October 4, 2002 - The negative effects of smoking marijuana, including delayed reactions and impaired judgment, are communicated to teens in a new multi-media campaign created for the Partnership for a Drug-Free America® (PDFA) by Leo Burnett USA. The campaign breaks nationally, Monday October 7th.

Four TV public service announcements (PSAs) kick-off the campaign and will run through the end of the year. The drug-education messages will run as part of a federally funded national anti-drug media campaign during shows such as "Dawson's Creek," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "The Bernie Mac Show," on networks including WB, UPN, Fox and MTV.

"We spoke with kids about their views and thoughts on smoking pot," said Bea Bartolotta, senior vice president and director of creative development for the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign at the Partnership. "At first, they tended to see marijuana as harmless, but they did believe people who use pot might do things they wouldn't otherwise, things they perceived as regrettable, stupid, even dangerous."

The 30-second TV ads show teens in familiar situations that are normally innocent and fun. In one spot, viewers see a few scenarios featuring teens high on marijuana in a car at a fast-food drive-thru; in the last scenario, the car pulls out and accidentally runs over a child on a bicycle. Another multiple-scenario ad shows a couple on a couch at a party; the final scenario shows the boy beginning to take advantage of the girl who is vulnerable because she's stoned. Each spot concludes with the question: "Marijuana: Harmless?"

"We worked hard to create spots that relate to teens' everyday lives, even asking the actors featured in the commercials to help us further gauge the campaign's realism," said Mark Tutssel, vice chairman and deputy chief creative officer of Leo Burnett USA. "Without this authenticity, effectiveness would be lost. The outcome is a campaign that vividly illustrates that marijuana is far from harmless, featuring scenarios that progress from everyday occurrences to the severe consequences of drug use."

The campaign, which also includes print ads highlighting the potential negative consequences of marijuana use, is running nationally as part of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy's National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign. This federally funded campaign is a public-private effort aimed at securing premium media placements for anti-drug messages. The Partnership donates messages to the campaign and receives no federal funding for its role in the effort.

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