New Study Finds White House

Press Release May 11, 2006
Media Contact

Tony Newman at (646) 335-5384 or Bill Piper at (202) 216-0035

A new study appearing in the May issue of Addictive Behaviors finds that 18- to 19-year-old college students who view the White House’s anti-marijuana TV ads develop more positive attitudes towards marijuana than those who do not view the ads. The researchers warn that, “exposure to anti-marijuana advertising might not only change young viewer’s attitudes to more positive toward the substance, but also might directly increase risk of using marijuana.”

Over the last five years, the Bush Administration has wasted hundreds of millions of dollars on anti-marijuana TV and print ads that researchers, drug war critics and taxpayer groups say are ineffective at best and harmful at worse. Numerous studies have found that the controversial ads, which range from comparing marijuana users to terrorists to claiming that marijuana will make you crazy, have had no impact on marijuana use.

“From the start the Bush Administration’s ad campaign has been about taxpayer-funded propaganda, not prevention,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Congress needs to eliminate this ineffective program and shift the funding to drug treatment which has been proven to work.”

The authors of the study, entitled “Explicit and implicit effects of anti-marijuana and anti-tobacco TV advertisements,” speculate that, by using inaccurate and exaggerated fear-based arguments that are not consistent with the prior knowledge of viewers, the government may be creating a “boomerang” effect that enforces attitudes opposite to those intended by the campaign’s creators. Previous research came to similar conclusions.

Congress has significantly cut the program in the last several years as opposition to it continues to grow.

“I don’t know what’s more outrageous; that our government wastes hundreds of millions of dollars on ineffective ads calling marijuana smokers terrorists, or the fact that the White House ignores study after study that shows that their drug control strategy is misguided and unsuccessful, yet it continues to fund this unproductive ad strategy,” Piper said.

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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